An estimated 700 Catholics packed into an east Charlotte church on Monday for a Mass honoring Mother Teresa, who was declared a saint on Sunday at the Vatican in Rome.
The standing-room-only crowd at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church heard a homily, or sermon, about the famous nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and the dying from one of her longtime friends, Bishop Emeritus William Curlin of Charlotte.
The 89-year-old retired bishop, who led the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte from 1994 through 2002, brought Mother Teresa to Charlotte in 1995 for an ecumenical service that drew 19,000 to the old Charlotte Coliseum. The 5-foot-tall Albanian-born nun, who died in 1997, also inspected a convent in Charlotte for sisters from the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order she founded. Curlin also visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta, her base in India, and was among her spiritual advisers and correspondents for more than 20 years.
On Monday, Curlin was one of 16 priests celebrating the Mass with current Charlotte Bishop Peter Jugis. Sisters from the Missionaries of Charity read the two epistles, and the Gospel from Matthew was about how helping “the least of these” – the hungry, the naked, the stranger, the sick and the imprisoned – is helping Jesus.
The Mass also featured a procession by local members of the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal group of Catholics who wear capes and plumed hats and don swords for such traditional occasions. It was the 1.9 million-member Knights of Columbus that commissioned what became the official portrait of Mother Teresa for Sunday’s canonization service in Rome. It was painted by Charlotte artist Chas Fagan, and holy cards bearing the portrait were passed out after Monday’s Mass.
Curlin on Mother Teresa
Here’s some of what Bishop Curlin said about Mother – now St. – Teresa during his homily and at a news conference following the Mass:
▪ During a visit to India, Mother Teresa asked him to bless and then clean a leper. “I (had) never cleaned a leper. I didn’t know where to begin. She sensed that. Very sensitive lady. And she said, ‘Father, if you look with your eyes, you’ll see a leper. If you look with your heart, you’ll see Jesus.’ ”
▪ “I had told her there was a lot of suffering in Charlotte. ... She called (in 1995) and said, ‘I’m bringing my sisters (to Charlotte) as a gift and I will come myself.’ I said, ‘Oh Mother, I would be so happy if you did for that for me.’ She started laughing, ‘Well, you’re my spiritual friend and like a son to me. I’ll bring my sisters.’ Another sister later called and said, ‘Mother’s too ill, she can’t come.’ The next day, Mother was on the phone: ‘Don’t listen to them. I’m coming.’ ”
▪ “She said the worst suffering of all is not just physical. The worst suffering is to feel that nobody cares what happens to you. ... A little word of kindness can change someone’s life.”
▪ “I found out that she liked candy. She would give (candy) out to everybody, but she liked a piece herself. So, the second time I went to India, I got off the plane. She said, ‘Oh, you’ve come to help me?’ I said ‘Yes.’ And she said, ‘Did you bring me some candy?’ ... She had joyful ways about her, almost like an innocent child. People think of her as very serious. But she had a wonderful sense of humor and a nice smile.”