When Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited Phoenix 27 years ago, she kissed the ground at Our Lady of Fatima Mission in three locations. In a special liturgy Sept. 22, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted blessed those locations as second-class relics of the newly canonized saint.
Markers were placed over the three spots: one on the curb outside the church, as she got out of her car, the second just inside the front doors to the church and the third at the foot of the altar. The bishop also blessed a statue of Mother Teresa that a group of pilgrims brought back from the canonization in Rome.
“When the Church blesses a picture or a statue and presents it for public veneration, … it does so for the following reason: that when we look at the representation of those who have followed Christ faithfully, we will be motivated to seek the city that is to come, that we will learn the way that will enable us most surely to attain complete union with Christ,” said Bishop Olmsted in the prayer of blessing. “Today we praise You for the gifts of the spirit bestowed on St. Teresa of Calcutta, in whose honor we dedicate this statue and these markers where she knelt and stood and kissed.”
In his homily, the bishop referred to Mother Teresa as a “joyful witness to mercy.” She captured the attention of the world, he said, because she loved Jesus present in the Eucharist, noting that she began every day with Adoration and Mass, and she loved Jesus present in the poor whom she served.
“The way we help the poor have hope is with a smile on our face because Jesus is alive in our hearts,” he said. “But you can’t fake joy for very long, especially among the poor. Jesus has to live there.”
Rita Ruiz, who welcomed Mother Teresa to Our Lady of Fatima in 1989, remembered her visit “just like yesterday.”
“I was just in awe and overwhelmed to know she was here in person,” said the 80-year-old parishioner.
Janice Perdue, who works for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, attended the Mass because she finds a connection between her work and that of St. Teresa of Calcutta.
She said she was particularly inspired by “the devotion she had for the poor. I hope to carry her love on, hopefully as she did.”
The Missionaries of Charity who serve at the mission asked parishioner Michael Serpa to install the markers into the ground.
“It was really heartwarming for them to ask me to do that,” said Serpa, who does handyman work for the mission. “It’s really awesome to know she was here and touched the floor we walked on.”
Sr. Luz Mariana, one of the four Missionaries of Charity who serve at Our Lady of Fatima, said the charism established by the order’s foundress inspired her to love.
“I just feel like lifting up my soul in thanksgiving for Mother and all the graces she gave us [and] that she shared with us,” she said. “We try to show our gratitude in that simple way of people expressing gratitude to God for what He’s doing.”
Toward the end of his homily, Bishop Olmsted recalled doing some translation work for Mother Teresa while he was serving in Rome.
“When it was over, she took my hands, she said to me, ‘Father, pray for one thing, please. Pray that I and all of our sisters never lose our joy.’ That was her one prayer, that she and her sisters never lose their joy,” he said. “It made me want to pray for the same grace every single day, and I pray for the same for each of you.”