Celebrations of the 100th birthday of Mother Teresa began early in the morning of August 26 in Calcutta, with a solemn Mass at the chapel of the Missionaries of Charity, and Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, Archbishop of Calcutta, lighting a candle at the tomb of the revered nun. Mother Teresa herself considered August 27th her “true birthday” the day she was baptized.
While pilgrims—Christians and non-Christians—filed past Mother Teresa’s tomb, across town Cardinal Toppo and Archbishop Lucas Sirkar of Calcutta presided at the opening of a film festival dedicated to Mother Teresa’s memory. Sister Prema, the superior of the Missionaries of Charity, formally opened the event. Later in the day federal government ministers launched the “Mother Express,” a train carrying a mobile exhibition on the life of Mother Teresa, which will tour around India. Pope Benedict XVI said Mother Teresa of Calcutta is an “inestimable gift for the Church and the world”, in a message to the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity.
Born in Albania August 26, 1910, for over 45 years Mother Teresa ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity’s expansion, first throughout India and then in other countries.
This morning’s celebration begins a special year dedicated to Mother Teresa, a year that Pope Benedict said he is confident will be “for the Church and the world an occasion of joyful gratitude to God for the inestimable gift that Mother Teresa was in her lifetime”.
Speaking to the Mother’s “spiritual children”, the many thousands of religious sisters, brothers and lay workers who carry on her mission of bringing Christ’s love to the “poorest of the poor”, the Pope urges them to draw constantly from the spirituality and example of Mother Teresa and, in her footsteps, to take up Christ’s invitation: “Come, be my light”.
Sr Mary Prema is Superior General of the Order, which today comprises an estimated 450 brothers and 5,000 sisters worldwide, operating 600 missions, schools and shelters in 120 countries. In a Letter sent to each of these missions, Sr Prema writes: “Her life and work continue to be an inspiration for young and old, rich and poor from all walks of life, religions and nations”. She adds that those who follow in her footsteps are called to share God’s love with those around us “beginning with our families”. And concludes in the Mother’s words: “A smile generates smiles and love generates love”.
The Mother died on 5 September 1997. Following her death on 19 October 2003 she was beatified by Pope John Paul II and given the title Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.