Relics make Mother Teresa present again

A reliquary containing a vial of Mother Teresa's blood is displayed at Blessed Mother Teresa Parish in Dorchester June 18. Also on display were Mother Teresa's sandals, crucifix, and rosary, as well as a lock of her hair. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

DORCHESTER -- Relics of Blessed Mother Teresa were recently on display in a Boston parish that bears her name. The visit was one stop for the holy items in a tour around North America arranged by the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa.

On June 18, Blessed Mother Teresa's sandals, crucifix, and rosary, as well as a lock of her hair and vial of her blood, were at Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Dorchester. The church remained open from late morning until the viewing closed with a Mass at 5 p.m.

"It just took my breath away. It brings me to tears," said Edie McDaniel, of Sacred Heart Parish in Middleborough, displaying slight emotion. "She was an amazing woman. She gave everything, and it just makes you feel you're not doing half as much as you need to be doing."

Sister Mary Ajay, of the Missionaries of Charity, the order established by Mother Teresa in 1950, said her order is bringing the relics to various locations around the United States and Canada. Recently, she said the relics were at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York City, in Bridgeport, Conn., and also on June 18, were slated to appear in the Diocese of Fall River. A stop in Montreal was also planned, Sister Ajay said.

"Many of us haven't seen a saint, so this is an opportunity," said Sister Mary.

Father Jack Ahern, pastor of Blessed Mother Teresa Parish, said between 1,500 and 2,000 people came during the day to see the relics.

Viewers included former Boston mayor and Vatican ambassador Ray Flynn, former state representative Jim Brett.

Brett, a lifelong parishioner at the Dorchester parish, met Mother Teresa three times. During the first instance in 1995, while visiting the state prison in Concord, Mother Teresa kissed a Miraculous Medal and gave it to him, saying "Do it all for Jesus." Since then, Brett said he has always worn the medal.

He described Mother Teresa as an "extraordinary human being" as well as "humble" and "holy."

"She just has a presence about her that glows of holiness," he said. "I've met presidents and dignitaries. She was one I was completely in awe of. My hands were shaking when I left her."

"I've never seen anyone received the way she was," he added.

During the day, students of neighboring John Paul II Catholic Academy Columbia Road Campus also came to venerate the relics.

"The kids knew they were in the presence of holiness," said Father Ahern. "All of the sudden people started telling stories of the work she did and the difference she made."

Many, including Rob Ballasty, a parishioner of Holy Family Parish in Dorchester, were most impressed by Mother Teresa's sandals.

"I worry because my sandals or shoes are scuffed," she said. "Here are these worn out sandals on this woman who did so much."

While Ballasty expected to see things like a rosary and a crucifix he was surprised to see the sandals.

"She was a sister and a holy woman. You figure someone would preserve a rosary or a crucifix that belongs to her," said Ballasty. "The sandals weren't the first thing I thought of."

Father Ahern, however, recalled her crucifix and rosary beads. He particularly noted how "well-worn" the rosary beads were.

"They were used," he said. "She was a woman of prayer."

The principal celebrant for the Mass was parish parochial vicar Father Richard "Doc" Conway. Concelebrants were Fathers Huy Nguyen, a parochial vicar at the parish, and Dan Hennessey, the archdiocese's vocations director.

Father Nguyen also served as the homilist.

His homily discussed how the example of Blessed Mother Teresa can illustrate to the modern world how to become a saint.

"Blessed Mother Teresa is known for one simple teaching -- we can do only small things with great love," Father Nguyen said. "Blessed Mother Teresa teaches us we don't have to be a superhero to be a saint in the eyes of God -- just be simple and humble and listen to the word of God and we will be saved."

In a statement, Cardinal Seán P.O'Malley praised Mother Teresa's life and recalled his personal encounters with her.

"Over the course of many years it was my privilege to be with Mother Teresa on several occasions, as a young priest during my time teaching at Catholic University, as bishop in the West Indies and in hosting her visit to the Diocese of Fall River," his statement said in part.

"Through the work of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother changed people's lives for the better and brought about an increased awareness of the needs of the sick and the suffering. Her humble and prayerful concern for all people, especially the most vulnerable, and her steadfast commitment to the protection of the unborn, is her spiritual legacy to us. We give thanks for Mother Teresa's life and we pray that God instills in all of us the power of her love for every person in every part of the world."

Mother Teresa is a candidate for canonization. She died in 1997 at the age of 87. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

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