Cardinal celebrates canonization with Dorchester parish

DORCHESTER -- Hours after Mother Teresa was declared a saint during a canonization Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Vatican City, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley remembered Mother Teresa's life and accomplishments during a Mass held at St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Dorchester, Sept. 4.

"Mother Teresa's life rises in the darkness, and she brought hope and comforting to so many who were in pain and despair," cardinal said in his homily.

Her "energy and strength comes from her profound understanding of how much God loves us, and that gave her the strength and courage to be able to do so many wonderful works of mercy," he added.

The parish, previously named Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish, was renamed St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish on Sunday, following Mother Teresa's canonization.

At the Mass, local sisters belonging to Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa, were present.

In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley praised the sisters for their work with the needy.

"In our own archdiocese, our beloved sisters here run a shelter for homeless mothers and children," he said.

"In a quiet, humble way, they serve the poor with joy and with love, and they invite so many people into their midst," he continued.

He recalled the first time he met Mother Teresa. It was in the 1960s, he said, and he was teaching Modern Language at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He had received a notice in his mailbox that the university was going to honor a visiting missionary nun in its Caldwell Hall auditorium.

At first, the cardinal said, he didn't think anything of it, as Mother Teresa was virtually unknown at that time. Yet, he eventually decided to "begrudgingly" attend the event, after his "conscience began to bother (him)."

"I called it one of those Simon of Cyrene moments, where we end up doing something we didn't want to do but afterwards we say 'Wow, I am glad that I did that,'" he said.

Eileen Egan, the head of Catholic Relief Services at that time, introduced Mother Teresa at the event, telling of her work with the poor and the dying.

"As Eileen Egan described Mother's mission, we were all just amazed. And then Mother began to speak, and I must say everyone in that auditorium was weeping, we were so moved by her holiness, her goodness, and how she embodied the love of Mercy in our Gospels," the cardinal recalled.

In this Year of Mercy, Cardinal O'Malley said, we are called to trust in the mercy of God, like Mother Teresa did.

"Mother Teresa had such trust in God's providence. She was not afraid to go anywhere or do anything or make any request from anyone, because she had so much trust in God's love and in his presence in our lives," he said.

"Let us ask Mother Teresa intercede for us, to help us to have loving, merciful hearts, so that all of us, like her, will be able to do something beautiful for God," he concluded.

At the end of the Mass, Cardinal O'Malley presented the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity present with a miniature of the bronze sculpture, "Homeless Jesus" by Timothy P. Schmalz, a copy of which was installed and blessed by Pope Francis earlier this year at the Vatican. The sculpture depicts a man wrapped in a long cloak lying on a bench. Only the man's feet are exposed and they exhibit stigmata, signifying that the man is Jesus.

Father John Currie, the pastor of the Dorchester Tri-Parishes collaborative, which includes St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, said in a Sept. 6 interview that the sculpture is based on the works of mercy in Matthew 25, and "Mother's Gospel for her feast day is Matthew 25."

"It seemed so fitting to give (the sisters) something to commemorate that day and to help them celebrate that day, and to bring into their own home as a reminder of Mother and the gospel really being lived through their mission, through their charism, through their order," said Father Currie.

He added that he visited the sisters in the days following the Mass, and noticed that they have a "life-size wooden bench that is almost the same style used in the model."

"They brought me over and said this is where our homeless sit, because it is in the area where they welcome the women and children in their home... It's one of those 'God winks,'" he said.

St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish will be holding another Mass on October 2 in Mother Teresa's honor, and Father Currie expects her sisters will be present.

"I'm praying that her canonization, and having her name in our patronage during this Year of Mercy will help us to stop and think and pray about our own lives and our own willingness to be instruments of mercy, as Mother was," he said.