A modest north Bengal chapel in the name of Mother Teresa held a special service on Sunday morning, hours before the iconic Catholic missionary was to be canonised in faraway Rome. But there was more to the ceremony at the village 460 km from the state capital.
The eight-month-old church is housed in remote Nakor, which is the native place of a middle-aged lady on whom the iconic Albanian-Indian nun performed a ‘miracle’ that proved key in the sainthood of Mother at a ceremony in Pope-ruled Vatican.
Monica Besra, 50, celebrated the day with her sons and residents of her village near Harirampur in South Dinajpur district, beginning with a prayer at the Mother Teresa church. “We have a TV at home. We will be watching the Mother’s sainthood ceremony on it,” she told HT. “What can I say? I am so happy.”
Besra’s eldest son Gopinath said the family would celebrate the whole day together. “I have never seen my mother so happy,” he added.
The family, which owns five bighas of land, will not hit the fields on Sunday. In the evening, Besra is going to the nearest town of Raiganj with the father of her neighbourhood church to attend an evening service for the Mother.
The church at Nakor has arranged a television for community viewing of the canonisation live.
In 1998, a penury-riddled Besra reported cure of her ovarian tumour following sustained prayers to late Mother Teresa who she never met in life. A mother of five children, the tribal woman’s story was well-chronicled, enabling the Vatican to take notice of it—and list it as a ‘miracle’: the first milestone in the two-step trip to sainthood as per Catholic norms.
On Sunday, a beaming Besra reiterated her strong belief that her faith in the Mother enabled her to cure of the tumour. “I feel so happy (about the sainthood). It was Mother Teresa’s blessings that gave me a new life. I could walk properly and eat rice,” she gushed, with her two songs seated alongside.
Besra is all praise for the Missionaries of Charity which Mother Teresa founded at Kolkata in 1950. In October 2003, when the nun was beatified six years after her death at age 87, a team of the Missionaries of Charity took Besra as well to the Italian capital.
“We spent 22 days in Rome. It was an amazing place,” recalled Besra. “I enjoyed it a lot.”
It was on September 5, 1998—exactly a year after Mother Teresa’s death—that nuns placed a tiny aluminium medallion on Besra’s stomach and prayed for her. “Two sisters carried me to the church since I was too weak to even stand,” she said. “As soon as I entered (the church), a blinding, divine light emitted from Mother’s photo and enveloped me. I closed my eyes and almost fainted. The next day the pain was gone.”
Besra’s claim was contested by doctors and rationalists alike. Countering her claim in 1998, doctors at the district hospital stated the patient was cured by medicines since her disease (malignant ovarian tumour) was detected at an early stage.
The Pope last year recognised a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa—the 2008 recovery of a Brazilian man suffering from multiple brain tumors, paving the way for her canonisation.