Mother Teresa of Kolkata will today be made an official Saint of the Roman Catholic Church, 19 years after her death.
She was affectionately referred to as “Saint of the gutters” during her lifetime, especially in her adopted India. Mother Teresa was also known globally as the Mother of Humanity of the World.
Her work reflected a unique philosophy of life, giving comfort to the suffering, offering shelter to the homeless, and helping the poorest of the poor.
To the world, Mother Teresa, one of the most recognisable faces of the 20th century, was a humble person with unlimited capacity offering unconditional love to the people.
The legacy of blessed Mother Teresa continues worldwide though she died in 1997. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in October 2003, and had two miracles credited to her.
One was a woman in India, whose stomach tumour was cured and another was a Brazilian man who miraculously recovered from brain abscesses.
Here are comments from a cross-section of personalities:
Chairman, Guru Nanak Darbar Dubai
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a true living saint during her time. The charitable works she has done in India and throughout the world best personify wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor and has been unparalleled. A great humanitarian of the 20th century, she is a true inspiration. She has passionately served humanity during her lifetime. We are joyous in her canonisation as a saint as we also look up to her as an exemplar role model of selfless service.
I remember a story about Blessed Mother Teresa’s early years in India. She had barely a few rupees in her pocket at that time and wanted to build a church in Calcutta. When people asked her how can that be possible, and with full conviction she said, it is God’s house and God will build it Himself. Indeed, money flowed and the church was built. And this strikes to me as her first miracle when she was still alive.
My wife Bubbles Kandhari describes her meeting with Blessed Mother Teresa as one of the most beautiful moments of her life. She describes her as a petite woman with an extraordinary aura. My wife vividly recalls the electrifying goosebumps she felt when Blessed Mother Teresa held her hand and that her presence was undeniably mesmerising. While gratefully accepting the monetary donation, Blessed Mother Teresa said that more than the money we should also personally perform seva (selfless service). Seeing Blessed Mother Teresa and her volunteers take care of the abandoned little children was awe-inspiring that made my wife come back to do seva, feeding the children, ultimately giving her a greater kind of satisfaction and happiness.
Blessed Mother Teresa’s unyielding commitment to helping those most vulnerable in society makes her an icon of kindness. She made charitable missions across the globe touching lives and souls of thousands of people. We at the Guru Nanak Darbar Dubai join the Catholic congregation in celebrating this sacred occasion of Blessed Mother Teresa’s sanctification into sainthood. We pray for the eternal repose of her soul and that may her spirit continue to guide and bless kindness to humanity.
World Future Council
Kolkata, India is my home-town and is famously known as the City of Joy and Mother Teresa holds a special place in my heart.
If there is one person who brought joy to millions in Kolkata, it is the iconic Mother Teresa who spent several decades of her life alleviating the sufferings of the downtrodden and marginalised sections of our society.
Whenever I go to Kolkata, I make it a point to visit her institution, Missionaries of Charity which continues to carry forward her inspirational work.
Mother Teresa once said “Peace begins with a smile” and she spent her entire life turning this message into a reality. She is a saint in every sense of the word and humanity is richer because of her. In today’s strife-torn world, her vision is like a beacon of hope for our future well-being.
Secretary General, Indian Business and Professional Council, Dubai
Canonisation of Mother Teresa as a ‘Saint’ reaffirms our belief that she was a holy spirit born as a human for the uncared, unloved and the forgotten. In her 1979 Noble Peace Prize acceptance, Mother Teresa said that we are judged by our deeds and caring for the fellow beings is our duty. Those who are not hungry for food but for love, not only naked for a piece of cloth but human dignity and not only homeless for a room to live in but homeless for being forgotten, uncared and unloved. When we enjoy a three-course dinner with family, we should remember that there are families struggling for one meal a day; when we are cosy in our homes, there are war-stricken refugees with no roof over them.
While we take care of our near ones, we have a moral responsibility to contribute towards the upliftment of the underprivileged. The life of Mother Teresa reminisces that there is a greater purpose in life when you live for others.
Bharat Ratna Mother Teresa is an epitome of love and caring who see no borders, no language or any discrimination. Being an Albanian and not English speaking, she dedicated her life for the poor and deprived of India and humanity at large. We feel proud that a holy person like Mother Teresa spent most of her life in India and exemplified the “joy of giving”.
I was just in my teens, to be precise 16, when Communism collapsed and the first steps of democracy sailed in, thus the Mother Teresa movement just fits in my city.
My sister Greta and I used to go and participate in the activities that the house of Mother Teresa was doing during that time, specially with the young generations.
Our sister Elsa use to sing there in the church choir, so there was more input that was also part of any movement there.
Greta and I were more involved at that time, assisting different groups that were coming in the country to rebuild it.
The sisters of Mother Teresa were the main point of support not only for the younger generation, but also for first aid.
A lot of people regardless of their religious background reached out for help, support and love from her house and her sisters’ help.
I saw Mother Teresa for the first time during one of her first visits to Albania. There was a big celebration in her honour, as several congregations travelled to Albania from across the world.
This is when I realised the immense power of Mother Teresa, it was really so huge and every one knew that Albania was her motherland, this made me more proud of her and hence I am extremely proud and blessed that our small country, Albania, today has made world history with a ‘Living Saint’.
Tariq Ahmed Nizami
Founder, CEO Clubs Network Worldwide
“Mother Teresa was one of the greatest persons of all centuries, if we have more Mother Teresas now we may not have so many issues in the world. Her vision and commitment showed how much she loved people and their happiness. I love one quote where she says, “If you judge people then you have no time to love them.” In this quote if you think deep a strong message is hidden that we should accept people the way they are as God made everyone different from each other. I think with all her messages with understanding we can really change the world plus be happy and love humanity. God is everywhere we are just his creations who spread the messages, being a Muslim I think her work should be followed and try to understand the way she has given every message with a meaning.
“We all should follow Mother Teresa’s work as she loved beyond boundaries irrespective of religion, race, colour or creed to make others happy and teach meaning of life. I always say that from persons like Mother Teresa “we should learn from the PAST to correct our PRESENT for a better FUTURE.”
There were also others who were deeply touched by Mother Teresa’s all-pervasive goodness and love. Gautam Lewis, a polio victim, was abandoned by his parents at the age of 7 and rescued by Mother Teresa. Gautam Lewis travels to Rome to attend the canonisation of Mother Teresa, who brought him to life.
He was adopted from an orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity, the order set up by Mother Teresa, and moved first to New Zealand and later England. Lewis, 39, now runs a flying school for people with disabilities in the United Kingdom.
“She used to consider all of us as her children. She was our angel guardian,” said Lewis, who has a pronounced limp and walks with a crutch.
But the nun remains the most important influence on his life. “Mother gave me a destiny to have a different life.”
Born to an old and wealthy family, artist Sunita Kumar grew up in Kolkata far removed from the squalor of the slums where Mother Teresa worked. Yet after over three decades of volunteer work with the order, she became a close confidante of the nun and later a spokeswoman for the order. She was one of the witnesses interviewed by the Vatican ahead of Mother Teresa’s beatification in 2003.
“Mother was my role model. I travelled along with Mother quite a bit and learned how simply one can live. The amount of work she used to do herself for the poor, the love and care she gave them, was amazing.”
In the final years of Mother Teresa’s life, Kumar painted several portraits of the diminutive nun.
Kumar said she is “very happy and delighted” that the nun who inspired her will be declared a saint.
In 1988, Swapan Pal found shelter in a home where nuns of the Missionaries of Charity cared for people like him who suffered from leprosy and were shunned by their families and communities.
That moment saved his life. He was cured and eventually met his wife at the shelter. Both now work at a rehabilitation centre that is part of the home.
“After being diagnosed as a leprosy patient, I became totally depressed and thought my world had come to an end. But the love and care here has given me a new life,” the 50-year-old said.
“Mother was a living Lord to us. We are very, very happy and glad that the Mother would now be known as a saint all over the world.”
Seikh Nurul Hasan runs a shop selling souvenirs and memorabilia of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity near Mother House, the main office of the Roman Catholic order.
“Mother was a really a great person who worked, cared and loved our people, particularly the poor, irrespective of religion or caste.”
The 59-year-old Muslim shop owner remembers a time when a minivan carrying several nuns hit some pedestrians outside his shop.
He said that although no one was seriously hurt, some enraged local people were about to attack the van. Hearing the noise, Mother Teresa came out and “as she moved towards the vehicle, the people who were about to attack the van came under sort of a spell, became absolutely quiet and went away.”
“Everyone in this locality is happy with sainthood being conferred on the Mother,” he said.
Freelance photographer Sunil Kumar Dutt began covering Mother Teresa’s work in Kolkata in 1965 and has one of the largest collections of photographs of the nun.
“From the day I first met her, Mother always appeared to me a living saint in action,” the 80-year-old said. “My association with Mother Teresa has impacted my life in a very big way.
“Whenever I think of her I feel a profound peace in the very core of my heart.”
Dutt added, “Though I know granting sainthood is a formality, I feel Mother does not require any authentication from anywhere.”