Express train carries Mother Teresa's message across India

August 31, 2010 | Web First
By Anto Akkara | Ecumenical News International

More than 25 000 people gathered at Kolkata's Sealdah railway station for the launch of the "Mother Express" train, a highlight of the centenary celebrations of the birth of Mother Teresa.

"Mother has become a household name here and the people are proud that she belonged to this city," said Mamta Bannerji, a Hindu who is India's federal railways minister and who hails from Kolkata, before she flagged off the special train funded by the railway ministry.

Painted in white and blue, the colour of the Missionaries of Charity congregation founded by Mother Teresa, the air-conditioned "Mother Express" is a mobile exhibition about the life of Mother Teresa. It is to travel across the country to spread her message of love and care.

Born Aug. 26, 1910 in Skopje in what is now the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Agnes Bojaxhiu reached India in 1929 as a Loreto nun with the name Sister Mary Teresa. She founded a congregation to serve the "poorest of the poor" in 1950 from a rented house in Calcutta, as Kolkata was then called.

The Missionaries of Charity congregation now has 765 houses in 137 countries with more than 5020 nuns, 370 brothers and 38 fathers.

The celebrations in Kolkata began with an early morning solemn Mass at the chapel of the mother house and the lighting of a candle at her tomb by Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, the former president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.

"The poor were attracted to Mother because they perceived that her compassion was authentic. In her presence, they felt consoled and assured that God loves them and cares for them," Sister Prema, the superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, said after the prayers.

Throughout the day, pilgrims and non-Christian admirers of Mother Teresa visited her tomb, including Tibetan spiritual leader the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa and Soven Chatterji, the mayor of Kolkata.

"Mother made Kolkata famous. We cannot forget her," Chatterji told ENInews. He said the city is to mark the centenary by erecting a life-size statue of Mother Teresa on a street renamed in her honour.

An international film festival in Nandan, the film centre of Kolkata, was inaugurated by Sister Prema. Ashoke Biswas, the Church of North India bishop of Kolkata, and a number of other bishops attended.

"This is a cinematic tribute to Mother Teresa. With these films, we want to spread her message of love and compassion to the younger generation," explained Sunil Lucas, coordinator of the film festival.

Bishop Biswas told ENInews that celebrating the centenary entails "working together in one accord to remove poverty and hunger, to reach out to those who need love and care and give shelter to the homeless".

The 15 films and commentaries being shown include, "In the name of God's Poor", by Dominic Lapierre with Geraldine Chaplin as Mother Teresa, and "Madre Teresa", starring Olivia Hussey. The documentaries include "Something beautiful for god", the 1969 BBC production by Malcolm Muggeridge that brought Mother Teresa to international fame.

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