‘Saint of the Gutters’ celebrated in Fairdale

Yvonne Miller and Theresa Rennirt pick up St. Teresa of Kolkata prayer cards prior to Mass Sept. 4 at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Church in Fairdale. Mother Teresa was canonized by Pope Francis on Sept. 4 during a Mass in St. Peter's Square.

Yvonne Miller and Theresa Rennirt pick up St. Teresa of Kolkata prayer cards prior to Mass Sept. 4 at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Church in Fairdale. Mother Teresa was canonized by Pope Francis on Sept. 4 during a Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

FAIRDALE, Ky. — St. Teresa of Kolkata often told people that the person Christ wants you to serve is already at your doorstep.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz witnessed such an encounter when Mother Teresa visited a Pennsylvania parish in 1976. He recalled this story Sept. 4 to those gathered at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Church in Fairdale, Ky., to celebrate the canonization of the parish’s patron. 

Earlier that same day, Pope Francis formally recognized Mother Teresa — widely known as “saint of the gutters” — as a saint during a Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

The archbishop said during his homily that he attended a talk given by Mother Teresa at a Pennsylvania parish where a man, moved by Mother Teresa’s words and actions, volunteered to return to India with her and assist in her charity work.

“She told him — and I’ll never forget it — ‘the person Christ wants you to serve is already at your doorstep,’ ” he said.

Sometimes it’s hard, the archbishop said, to treat those closest to us, especially family members, with dignity and compassion.

“In the Gospel, Jesus said, ‘If you are going to follow me, there will be suffering, there needs to be sacrifice,’ ” he said.

The archbishop noted that Mother Teresa felt a call early on to religious life. Part of that call, he said, was the desire to give her will over to God so that as her will diminished, Christ’s will increased.

“She wasn’t trying to make a name for herself,” he said. “She was trying to respond to God’s call, to be a witness for Christ.”

Archbishop Kurtz said the day of Mother Teresa’s canonization was an appropriate time to “renew ourselves and ask God to give us the gift of loving others.”

“The example we have is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. …You and I are renewed today because we see the person of Christ in the person next to us. And, we ask that we might love as all the saints, most especially, St. Teresa of Calcutta,” he said.

A number of former parishioners and clergy, including Deacon Ken Mitchell and Father Robert Ray, returned to Blessed Teresa parish to celebrate the canonization of Mother Teresa.

Father Ray, who was pastor of Blessed Teresa from 2008 to 2013, led the parish during the 2008 merger of St. Jerome and St. Mary churches, which formed Blessed Teresa.

“The parish is aptly named,” he said. “The people here are humble and kind.”

Father Patrick Dolan, pastor of Blessed Teresa, said he expects the name of the parish to be updated to reflect its patron’s sainthood. But the process will take numerous months, he said, noting, “The pope will need to issue a decree and then the archbishop will issue one.”

Parishioner Carol Payne described Mother Teresa as “just lovely” and noted the decades of care Mother Teresa devoted to helping the downtrodden and forgotten.

“She gave of herself to help other people. I wish I could be like her,” she said.

Payne also said she was proud her parish shared the name of the newly-canonized saint.

Ellen Oliver, a parishioner of Blessed Teresa, echoed the archbishop’s comment’s about the new saint and said she was inspired by Mother Teresa’s humility.

“She wasn’t in it for herself,” Oliver said. “She wanted to help others.”

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