By Kenneth J. Souza
ATTLEBORO, Mass. — In anticipation of her canonization in Rome next month, a first-class relic of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be coming to South Attleboro.
According to Deacon Rick Varieur, a vial of blood that was drawn from the Church’s next saint will be arriving at his parish, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church on Baltic Avenue, on September 18 for an 11 a.m. Mass celebration and veneration.
The vial — one of four that was drawn from Blessed Mother Teresa shortly before her death on Sept. 5, 1997 — was gifted to Hugo Rossi, a mutual friend of both Deacon Varieur and the founder of the Missionaries of Charity.
“Hugo worked for Mother Teresa for about eight years; he began in the early 1970s when few people knew or were aware of her work,” Deacon Varieur recently told The Anchor. “He became a sort of favorite. So when Mother came to the United States, she would have Hugo drive for her on the east coast.”
Deacon Varieur explained that Rossi spent about three years helping Mother Teresa during the 1970s in South Bronx, N.Y., when she opened a Missionaries of Charity house. They were so close that “when Mother Teresa was dying, she asked that one of the vials of blood be sent to Hugo here in the United States,” he said.
Rossi will be bringing the first-class relic with him to South Attleboro on September 18 and will also share stories of his personal encounters with Blessed Mother Teresa.
“Hugo will speak probably for a few minutes about his experiences with Mother, probably after Communion,” Deacon Varieur said.
Noting that any part of a saint’s body — things like bone, hair or blood — are considered first-class relics, Deacon Varieur said the veneration of these items has become “a great lost tradition of the Church.”
“It’s really a way in which we acknowledge God’s grace and blessing through another individual and we start to think of ourselves as — if Mother can do this through God’s grace, maybe we can do something similar,” he said. “We can all aspire to be like her.”
Although many in the Fall River Diocese were blessed to have seen and met Blessed Mother Teresa in person when she made a visit to her convent house in New Bedford in 1995, Deacon Varieur was not in the diocese at the time.
“I know she came to stay with her (Missionaries of Charity) Sisters here in New Bedford … and we’re still very blessed to have them here in our diocese,” he said.
Now, more than 20 years later, a part of Blessed Mother Teresa will be returning to the diocese — and timing couldn’t be better given that it will be just two weeks after her September 4 canonization.
“We were looking for a time to do it around the canonization and the principle reason for that is we know that canonization is usually a time of great miracles with the saint,” Deacon Varieur said. “The relic veneration is going to take place within the context of the Mass, probably after Mass at the end of Communion, and then after that people can leave or stay, if they want, for a healing service which will be prayed upon with the relic.”
While some may say that Blessed Mother Teresa’s elevation to sainthood has been a long time coming, Deacon Varieur said it’s been “a relatively quick canonization in the history of canonizations.”
“With her, the Church has sort of bumped up the process a little bit,” he added.
Anyone even remotely familiar with Blessed Mother Teresa and her life’s work would readily agree with her being considered a saint.
“When we think about Mother Teresa, I think there are two things that immediately come to mind,” Deacon Varieur said. “First of all, we think about this sort of steely, Albanian temperament that she had — she was sort of like Christ in that regard. I mean this was one tough woman. And when you think about the discipline that goes into that and the strength it takes to stay so focused on one thing the way she did, it really is just amazing.
“And then she combined it with a remarkable humility. Those two things, especially in our modern age, really stand out. That combination of determination and humility to me is just so wonderful. Those two traits are what made her … and God allowing us to know her in our lifetime is just remarkable.”
Deacon Varieur said he hopes people will join them in celebrating Blessed Mother Teresa’s canonization during the 11 a.m. Mass and healing service on September 18.
“We want anyone who has an interest in Blessed Mother Teresa and her canonization to join us,” he said. “The relic will be here for the day … and all are welcome.”