Nuns shed tears of joy and hugged each other, amid euphoric scenes at the Mother House, the global headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, as the orders founder Mother Teresa was declared a Saint by the Vatican on Sunday.
Hundreds of admirers of the Albanian nun, who made Kolkata (then Calcutta) her home for seven decades to serve the poor and the infirm, gathered near the blue, three-storied building since the morning to soak in the festive atmosphere.
Since morning, pilgrims from across the globe started arriving.
Outside, traffic was thrown out of gear, as people carrying blue flags, and lilies in hand, made a beeline for the small, dingy lane leading up to the freshly-painted house, where Mother lived for 44 years and also died on September 5, 1997. The lilies and other flowers were offered at her tomb, as the devout cutting across all religions bent down and prayed.
The entrance to the house was bedecked with blue and white blossoms, the colours that Saint Teresa chose for the sarees to be worn by the nuns of her order.
Two giant screens in two rooms of the house beamed the ceremony at the Vatican live for the visitors, who sat under a life size flex of a smiling Mother Teresa.
Wanting to capture this once-in-a-lifetime moment, the selfie sticks were out and clustered smiling faces huddled together.
“We not miss (sic) anything here. This is history. I will tell my children about it,” a French national reared his head out of the frame to quip in broken English.
MoC sisters were busy since dawn, but laughed off any mention of fatigue.
“What are you saying? Today will never come again. We are celebrating victory of humanity,” said one.
On how the day has unfolded, she added: “We have had visitors coming in since yesterday. The gates were open for all pilgrims who have made the journey from afar. We realise it’s a special occasion and everyone associated with her wants to be part of it.”
There were cheers as Pope Francis was seen on the giant screens arriving for the celebrations at the St Peter’s Basilica in a ceremonial procession.
The crowd followed the proceedings with rapt attention, but erupted in joy a few minutes past 2 p.m. when he declared that the nun would henceforth be called St Teresa.
Bells rang, the clapping continued for several minutes, some MoC sisters wept, some hugged, and others prayed to celebrate the moment, as Mother Teresa became one of the fastest saints in Catholic history.
The honour came a day before the nun’s 19th death anniversary, and only nine days after her 107th birthday.
An elderly lady was seen crying profusely. She came for the programme despite not keeping well, but fell unwell during the time of Mother’s anointment, clutching one of the sisters standing at the corridor. She was taken out of the building.
“She had to leave for home as she was keeping unwell and her pain aggravated. She was advised bed rest by the doctors. She said no force could stop her from coming here on this occasion,” the nun said later.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation set up a white and blue canopy on the busy A.J.C. Bose Road, close to the Mother House, and organised a ceremony on the occasion. A giant screen was installed there as well.
Minister Firhad Hakim and MP Sultan Ahmed were in attendance throughout to ensure everything was smooth.
Speaking at the KMC event, MoC assistant general Sister Lysa underscored the connect between the Mother and Kolkata.
“Mother’s sainthood is a great blessing for whole Church, whole world and for the whole country and in a special way Kolkata. Blessing for entire Missionaries of Charity family and poorest of poor,” she said.
“Saint is one who loves God and neighbours. A saint is one who had deep love and union. A saint is one who practices heroic virtues. That was what our Mother was.”
“Her path of holiness was very simple.. within the reach of every ordinary person,” Sister Lysa, said, praying to Saint Teresa of Calcutta “to bless all of us”.
Rabindranath Tagore’s popular song “Baro Asha Kore Esheychi Go, kache deke lao, firayo na Janani” (I come with great hopes, draw me towards you, don’t refuse, oh Mother,)” was rendered at the programme where representatives of all religions participated.