09/06/2004, 00.00
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Blessed Teresa's First Feast Widely Celebrated By Her Nuns

Kolkata (AsiaNews/Ucan) - Missionaries of Charity (MC) nuns throughout the world observed the first feast day of their founder, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, yesterday.

Sister Lynn told that only the 719 MC houses around the world have the Holy See's permission to celebrate the feast on September 5, the day of Blessed Teresa's death in 1997. These liturgical celebrations need special permission since the Nobel laureate nun has not been declared a saint. 

Sister Lynn observed the people "wanted to mark the death anniversary" and "it was difficult to explain the difference" of not celebrating the feast on Sunday.

The celebration included a nine-day novena of special prayers that began on Aug. 26 and ended with Mass and other celebrations on September 4, said MC Sister Lynn Mascarenhas, vice postulator for the cause of Blessed Teresa. MC nuns have composed prayers to support popular piety, Sister Lynn said, adding that the prayers "all have necessary approval" of the Church.

On September 5, hundreds rejoiced with prayers, song and dance. They thronged the motherhouse, which contains her tomb, and prayed before her statue. On Sept. 4 nuns, priests, MC volunteers and devotees of various religions thronged the chapel inside the motherhouse. Beside the altar was a picture of Blessed Teresa, below which a relic of the blessed, a drop of her blood, was displayed for public veneration.

Sister Nirmala Joshi, Blessed Teresa's successor as MC superior general, told that on the first feast day the nuns thanked God "that we have Mother (Teresa) in heaven to intercede for us in his presence. She knows us all and knows all our needs."

After Mass people trooped downstairs to pay respects at the blessed's white marble tomb, which was decorated with lilies and roses. People offered floral tributes, candles and incense sticks. Members of the All India Minority Forum representing the Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities prayed for peace and harmony at her tomb. Igalorsi Kaoru, a Japanese Protestant volunteer, played hymns on a musical instrument. Antara Purkait, 10, an orphan helped by the nuns and adopted by Hindu parents, placed a garland on the blessed's statue. She told UCA News she prays every day for Blessed Teresa's blessings before leaving for school.

MC novices sang and danced in the courtyard outside the tomb. On the wall behind was the portrait of Blessed Teresa that was unveiled at the Vatican for her beatification. The nuns have organized services, including meals for the poor, until Sept. 13, the day Blessed Teresa was buried.

Blessed Teresa died of cardiac arrest at the motherhouse on September. 5, 1997. Born in 1910 of Albanian parents in Skopje, now in Macedonia, she came to India in 1929 and founded the MC congregation in 1950. She was beatified on October 19, 2003 but another certified miracle attributed to her intercession is necessary for her to be canonized.

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