Even as the countdown to confer sainthood on Mother Teresa in Rome has begun, another countdown has kicked off in Kolkata. On September 4, the city will get the country’s first church named after Saint Teresa of Kolkata. Also, soon after the canonisation ceremony at the Vatican, the Catholic Association of Bengal will embrace Mother as its patron saint.
“Soon after the canonisation of Mother is done with, we will hold a meeting and would initiate the process of renaming Mother Teresa’s Church in Dum Dum as the St Teresa of Kolkata Church. It will become the first church in the city to be named thus,” Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta told HT.
Just like Mother, this L-shaped church in Dum Dum named after her has a very humble façade. “It is built on just 12 cottah of land. It has just two office rooms, a priest’s residence and a prayer hall which can accommodate about 300 chairs,” said the parish priest of the church, Father Tapan Stephen Khan.
In fact, the church is struggling to buy 300 chairs. The land at 315/A Lakhi Narayan Road at Dum Dum Cantonment area was bought in 1991 to build a church for about 600 Roman catholic families residing in the area. At that time Mother Teresa was alive.
The foundation stone of the church was laid in December 2006 and the first midnight mass celebrating Christmas was held in 2012.
“At that time we had thought of naming the church after Mother. But there is a St. Teresa Church named after a 16th century Spanish saint in Moulali. We did not want both the names to clash so the church was named Mother Teresa Church. And now that Mother is being canonised what can be a better way to celebrate her sainthood than by renaming the church,” said Archbishop D’Souza.
The church did not even have its own priest till 2013. Priests from the neighbouring St. Patrick’s Church performed the rituals.
“I got appointed as the first priest of the church in 2013. Now we have three statues of Mother Teresa in the church premises. I will now talk to the Archdiocese of Calcutta and the Missionaries of Charity to see if we could keep some memorabilia of the Mother here. This was the first church in Kolkata to be named after Mother but not many know this. Apart from locals, we do not get visitors here but I guess everything will change post the canonisation,” said father Stephen Khan. “We are also planning to expand the building,” he added.
The Catholic Association of Bengal too has decided to make St. Teresa of Kolkata its patron saint.
“Mother was born in 1910 and this association came into existence in 1911. Till date, the association did not have any patron saint. In our annual general meeting to be held on September 18, we would be embracing Mother Teresa as our patron saint,” said Eugene Gonsalves, national president of the All India Catholic Union and immediate past president of the Catholic Association of Bengal.