Mark Weber
News Specialist
July 6, 2016 // Local

Local pilgrims plan for Mother Teresa’s canonization in Rome

Mark Weber
News Specialist

Pope Francis passes an image of Mother Teresa of Kolkata as he arrives to celebrate Mass in Mother Teresa Square in Tirana, Albania, in this Sept. 21, 2014, file photo. The pope has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa, paving the way for her canonization in 2016.

By Mark Weber

FORT WAYNE — The 22 Mother Teresa devotees bound for Rome for her canonization this September 4 are fortunate to be led by someone who followed her example; someone who washed, fed, cared for and prayed with the unknown and unwanted of India, Father Robert D’Souza, Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish, Fort Wayne.

As a seminarian in the papal seminary in Pune, India, D’Souza came to know about Mother Teresa’s sisters and their work and assisted them as a hospital orderly on a weekly basis.  Washing lepers took on a special significance to Mother Teresa: “We may be doing social work in the eyes of people,” she told her sisters, “but we are really contemplatives in the heart of the world, for we are touching the body of Christ 24 hours a day. We live 24 hours in His presence.”

D’Souza was ordained in 1973 and met Mother Teresa briefly but their friendship began to grow in 1975 when Father D’Souza was named Director of Boys Town of Calcutta, of which Mother Teresa was a co-founder.  Boys Town had a population of 600 orphans, juvenile delinquents, and other societal castoffs. It had a regular school as well as a technical school and Father D’Souza was director there for 15 years.

At one point in his priestly life, he experienced a spiritual dryness and wanted to take a break.  He asked his bishop to give him a year off for a sabbatical.  Reluctantly, the bishop agreed.  As D’Souza left the bishop’s office, he called Mother Teresa and asked for a meeting. When they met, Mother Teresa took them immediately to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel where they prayed. As they left the chapel, Mother Teresa asked, “Father, what is your problem?”  He replied, “Mother, I am not happy.” She then asked how often he prayed and he told her that after saying Mass he had no time to pray. “Father,” she said. “Prayer is very important to priestly life. Beginning now, spend an hour a day in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Pour out your troubles to the Lord.  Ask Him to take care of you.” After 15 days he felt better, after six months he felt no need for a sabbatical.

The daily hour with the Lord has become part of his busy but contented priestly life at St. Jude’s where he does parish work and is a chaplain at Parkview hospital. For D’Souza this position he has held for many years is directly connected to his prayer life in the chapel of perpetual adoration.

In addition to founding the Missionaries of Charity with members now in the thousands and active worldwide, Mother Teresa was the recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, one of 124 official recognitions she would receive in her lifetime.  She died at the age of 87 in l997 and is buried beneath an altar in a shrine honoring her in Calcutta.  Father Robert D’Souza celebrates Mass at that altar annually.

The pilgrimage, led by Father D’Souza, to Mother Teresa’s canonization in Rome will be from Aug. 31 to Sept 8. Leading up to the Canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square on September 4th, there will be spiritual functions followed by a Mass of Thanksgiving. Sightseeing is included; visitors will visit Assisi, Naples, and many churches in Rome. A few vacancies still exist and those interested are asked to call 260-484-6609.

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