Faithfuls in trademark Missionary saris sit in silence in front of a giant screen, in a small room, watching the Pope beatify Mother Teresa (Picture on Page 19). Downstairs, volunteers, inmates and others are glued to the TV and the ceremony in Rome.
The scene at Shishu Bhavan, on AJC Bose Road, when the beatification began at 1.30 pm, was echoed in almost all the Missionaries of Charity homes. As the ceremony unfolded in far-off St Peter’s Square, the city that Mother Teresa had made her home joined in the jubilation.
There was an Italian couple, which preferred to be in Calcutta, not Rome, on Sunday, and Americans Josh Tucker and Trever Vanderhorst, volunteers at Nirmal Hriday. Then there was Jaya Pandit, a Shishu Bhavan inmate, who didn’t know what beatification meant, but knew that Mother was being honoured for her good work. “There have been many small miracles since Mother’s death,” said sister Marjorie. “But the Church wants a big miracle to make her a saint. She has been blessed now.”
A rally of hundreds of children from NGOs and schools walked from Mother House to Shishu Bhavan and back, with the Cross waving alongside an Om symbol and images and words of Mother.
There was prayer and singing, followed by a programme by three young inmates of the home, after four-year-old Prema placed incense sticks before a newly-unveiled statue of Mother.
The mood was mirrored at Shantidan, a home for the mentally handicapped in Tangra. While at Shishu Bhavan firecrackers were exploded, here, some sat patiently, hands folded. And at Nirmal Hriday, where it all began, there was much clapping and smiling.
Some of the inmates were too ill to move, but managed to watch the ceremony from their beds. Like Michael Gordon Louis, picked up from the pavements of Picnic Garden, who had damaged a leg in an accident. He wasn’t sure what beatification was, but he was content to clap for the woman who, even in death, was extending him a helping hand.
After it was over at Mother’s “first love”, the TV was switched off, and the nuns and volunteers went back to the work that a frail old nun had started 51 years ago in this Kalighat home, offering hope to the hopeless.