When Pope Francis declares Mother Teresa a saint on September 4, the Blessed Mother Teresa Church in Virar -- the only one in Maharashtra to be named after the nun – will become St Teresa of Calcutta Church.
As church members prepare to light up the church building with electric bulbs to celebrate the event, a group of 40 people are getting ready to travel to Rome this weekend to take part in the ceremony called canonisation.(see box) Among them will be Ivan Nazareth, a financial consultant, and six members of his family. Nazareth said that he cannot believe that he will be in Vatican City on Sunday. “We are very ordinary people. For us, it is like this: if your school gets an award you will be proud to be associated with that school. We are proud that our church is named after a saint who is being celebrated all over the world,” said Nazareth.
Father Michael Rozario, the church’s former parish priest who, too, will be in Rome on Sunday, explained why they decided to make Mother Teresa their patron saint. “We wanted a church in Mother Teresa’s name and the donor who gifted the land for the church also wanted it this way,” said Rozario.
The church, which was inaugurated in February 2012, has over 1,200 members from families who are from different linguistic groups. “Most families have moved in from Mumbai city,” said Rozario.
The churchgoers took permission from the Kolkata headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity – the order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa - and registered the name in December 2012. A one-ton statue of the nun, made in Rajasthan from Makrana marble – occupies a central position in the church and a drop of her blood – enshrined as a relic – draws worshippers. The church also has stained glass and a wooden altar created by the well-known carvers from Vasai, the Sequeira brothers.
Church members who will not be able to travel to Rome will take part in a religious service that will be led by archbishop of Vasai Felix Machado. “We expect 5,000 people to gather for the ceremony. People are collecting money for the needy to mark the event,” said Father Philip Vaz, the current parish priest.