For Monica Besra, who back in 1998 provided the Vatican with the first of two miracles it needs to confer sainthood on a person, Mother Teresa was a saint long before the official announcement on Friday.
When HT caught up with Besra over phone through a local church in South Dinajpur district, she could hardly contain her joy over the news of her saviour’s canonisation.
“I am so happy that I feel like jumping. (It was) Mother Teresa who cured my tumour. I could walk properly and eat rice after she cured me,” Besra said.
In 1998, she claimed — and it was recognised by the Vatican four years later — that she was cured of a tumour in the stomach by Mother Teresa.
Besra is now 50 years old, a mother of five, and lives in Nakor village under the care of Mehdipara Catholic Church, Harirampur, South Dinajpur — around 400 km from Kolkata.
“Earlier they (Missionaries of Charity) took me to Rome and we spent 22 days. It was so much fun. It was an amazing place. I will be so happy if this time too I am taken there. I have never seen her in person, but she changed my life,” said Besra.
Besra and her family rely on a small patch of agricultural land in South Dinajpur district as their only source of income. Her only hope to witness Mother Teresa’s formal elevation to sainthood now resides with the Missionaries of Charity, which earlier took her to Vatican City in 2003.
“I had a tumour in my stomach. I could not walk properly nor eat properly. I was in intense pain. We went to various doctors but none was able to cure me. All of my family’s savings was gone. Ultimately, I was admitted to a hospital run in the name of Mother Teresa. I wept and prayed with her picture day and night,” Besra recalled.
“On the night of September 5, 1998, I went to a small church in the premises. A beam of light emerged from the Mother’s picture. That night I could sleep well, and from the next morning I was completely cured and the tumour was gone. Now, I am healthy and can also work in the fields,” she said.
Incidentally, Teresa died on September 5, 1997.
Besra’s claim, however, was not without its detractors. Back in 1998, the ‘miracle’ was hotly contested by doctors and rationalists alike. Her attending doctors at the district hospital she was admitted to claimed that she was in fact cured by medicines because her tumour was detected at an early stage.
Nonetheless, Besra and her family members are firm believers and regulars at the local church, like many others in her community.