Beatification celebrated at Dorchester parish

Bishop Richard Lennon joined the parishioners of St. Peter Parish in Dorchester, the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity and well-wishers, to celebrate the beatification of Mother Teresa on Mission Sunday, Oct. 19.

"Mother Teresa has given the world an example of the power of love," said Bishop Lennon in his homily.

Mission Sunday is the day we remember the countless men and women who leave the comforts of their homes and homeland the spread the Word of God, he said.

Bishop Lennon noted the Mass was being celebrated just hours after the official ceremony had taken place in Rome. “How wonderful is it that the Holy Father chose this day for the beatification of Mother Teresa.”

"[Today] we recognize a special woman whose love for God was vast and extensive, and who taught us that loving God meant loving others," he said.

Gesturing to the more than 500 people attending, the bishop said “The reason for beatification is not for the person, but so you and I can follow their example.”

Then, speaking directly to the Missionaries of Charity seated in the front pews, the bishop said, “You called her ‘Mother,’ and I hope you don’t mind if we call her ‘Mother,’ also.”

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. The order has a convent on nearby Quincy Street, and the sisters are very active in St. Peter Parish, where they teach religious education and help in other activities.

"We have a tremendous collaboration and friendship with the Missionaries of Charity," said Sister Glenna Lee Connors of the Sisters of Charity, a pastoral associate at the parish.

The missionary sisters come from all over the world to work in Dorchester and after two or three years are rotated to another station. “They don’t stay, and we grieve when they leave. But, then other beautiful people are sent in their place,” she said.

Blessed Mother Teresa died September 5, 1997.

In his remarks at the Mass, Bishop Lennon recalled that he was chosen by Cardinal Bernard Law to be Mother Teresa’s driver during her 1995 visit to Boston. He met her helicopter as it landed in Franklin Park and drove her to an event at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Newton. During their time together, he was impressed by the harmony of what she said, what she believed and what she did.

Many of the attendees at St. Peter’s had memories of Blessed Teresa’s visit to Boston.

Brother Anthony Dusza, director of novices at the Little Brothers of St. Francis House on Mission Hill, met Mother Teresa when she climbed into his bus, he said. He and the other passengers were waiting to leave for Newton where she was going to speak. When she came to him, he told her that he was the director of novices. She took his hand and touching each of his five fingers told him, “Commit to Jesus. Love Jesus. Love Mary. Pray to God. Accept God. Then she dropped a pile of medallions in my hand!” Dusza said.

Mother Teresa was always giving out medallions, said Cynthia Mead, a lay member of the Missionaries of Charity and administrator at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston.

When she went to communist countries, Mother Teresa was not allowed to freely meet with the local people, so, as she walked she would drop the medallions for others to pick up later when her “minders” turned their backs, Mead said.

Mead, who is in her second year of being a lay missionary, said, “Mother Teresa is my hero. There is not a doubt that I have followed her life since I was a teenager,” she said.

When Blessed Teresa visited Boston, Mead was part of the group that greeted her at the door as she entered the order’s house on Quincy St., she said. When Mother Teresa passed her, she reached up and patted Mead on the head and told her, “God bless you,” Mead said. “I was filled with a sense of peace, and I felt as if I had known her my entire life.”

Mead was also in Newton that night in 1995. She especially remembers the incredible turnout. “The church was completely packed with people. There was a large screen outside and the crowd watching was four to five people deep. When she walked passed them and into the church, you could feel the surge from the crowd,” she said.

St. Peter’s was an appropriate place to celebrate Mother Teresa’s beatification, not only because of the parish’s special relationship with the Missionaries of Charity, but because of the role St. Peter’s plays in one of Boston’s most troubled neighborhoods, he said. “St. Peter’s is a lighthouse on Meetinghouse Hill, a beacon of hope and stability.”

St. Peter’s has been in the Dorchester neighborhood for 130 years, touched more than 100,000 souls, and was built from stone quarried from where she was built, Bishop Lennon said.