Diocese receives relic on Mother Teresa’s birth centenary

As Catholics around the world celebrated the 100th birthday of Blessed Mother Teresa on Aug. 26 (see stories, next page), the Diocese of Peoria received a priceless gift from the religious community the late nun founded.

The Missionaries of Charity have given the diocese a first-class relic of their foundress — a lock of Mother Teresa’s hair preserved in a reliquary. It will be displayed at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, which Mother Teresa visited in 1997.

“It’s good to have Mother Teresa back in the cathedral,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, in accepting the relic from Msgr. Paul Showalter, vicar general.

The presentation on behalf of the Missionaries of Charity serving in the cathedral neighborhood — four of whom were seated in the cathedral’s first pew — took place at the conclusion of a Mass celebrated by Bishop Jenky on Mother Teresa’s birth centenary.

Bishop Jenky raised the reliquary for all to see and then venerated it with a kiss.

“Her witness, her life, and her love have changed the world,” said Bishop Jenky of Mother Teresa in remarks at the start of Mass. Later, Bishop Jenky called the Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun — who died on Sept. 5, 1997 — a “great apostle of Christ’s great love.”

The Gospel reading included the crucifixion story from the 19th chapter of the Gospel of John, during which Jesus said, “I thirst.”

In his homily, Bishop Jenky noted the special meaning those words had for Mother Teresa, who he said “very deeply and profoundly heard the cry of Christ from the cross.”

“Jesus did not thirst for water, but in his endless love, Jesus thirsted for our souls,” said Bishop Jenky.

“Mother knew that his cry of love needed to be answered with response of love,” said Bishop Jenky. He said Mother Teresa and now the Missionaries of Charity and their supporters “freely serve Christ when they freely serve, even the very poorest of the poor.”

The phrase “I thirst” not only appears on the walls of Missionaries of Charity locations in Peoria and around the world, said Bishop Jenky, but “the words ‘I thirst for souls’ is branded on the heart of every Missionary of Charity.'”

All Catholics today should share common “thirsts,” said Bishop Jenky, including for God’s love, mercy, healing, help, challenge, strength, inspiration, grace, and “to finally see Him face to face.”

“And in the Eucharist our thirst can be satisfied,” said Bishop Jenky, congratulating those at the Mass for celebrating Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday “in the best possible way . . . . by tasting and seeing the great goodness of the Lord.”

Among those attending the special Mass was a group of about a dozen Catholics from the Quad Cities. After the Mass, two members of the group — Anna Neptune and her daughter, Michelle, members of St. Patrick’s Parish in Colona — presented the Missionaries of Charity with a circular birthday “cake” made with blue and white carnations and daisies and topped with an image of Mother Teresa.

“She’s a saint from our time,” said Anna Neptune of Mother Teresa, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003. She said among Mother Teresa’s many attributes that today’s Catholics should emulate are her humility and service to the poor.

Prior to the Mass, the assembly prayed the rosary as well as other special prayers for Mother Teresa and her intentions.

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