Priest and pilgrims go to Rome for canonization

Sitting at a gate at New York’s JFK airport on Aug. 30, preparing for a flight to Rome, Msgr. Michael Mannion reflected on his friend, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

“Through her example, we see that all are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in the image of Christ,” he said.

With her upcoming canonization, “The Catholic Church is recognizing her holiness, her goodness and her love for all people,” he continued.

Msgr. Mannion, currently Director of Community Relations for the Diocese of Camden, first met Blessed Teresa in 1969 when he was a seminarian at Rome’s North American College. Two years later, he worked with her and her Missionaries of Charity Sisters in Kolkata, India.

The experience has continued to inspire him — in a “radical” way — throughout his years of active ministry. He often preaches and gives talks on the future saint.

After learning of her death on Sept. 5, 1997, he concelebrated Mass with Cardinal James Hickey, then archbishop of Washington, who first met Mother Teresa through him, and then-Auxiliary Bishop William E. Lori, for about 70 Missionaries of Charity Sisters in their Washington convent. Archbishop William E. Lori is now archbishop of Baltimore.

At the time, he recalled that Blessed Teresa “saw the face of Christ in the poor. It was an act of worship for her to care for the poor. She made us connect the Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Galilee with the Jesus who lies today in the dusty roads of Calcutta.”

He and 31 other pilgrims are currently in Rome for this Sunday’s canonization Mass. With Pope Francis and others, he will concelebrate the liturgy in front of thousands.

“I’m grateful and humbled to be able to be a part of this celebration. Her life has been a witness to millions, that every life is sacred, to be valued, embraced and learned from. I continue to learn much about her” from other people’s stories about their encounters with her, Msgr. Mannion said.

“These stories have contributed to the beautiful mosaic (that was Blessed Teresa), that lets God’s light shine through; that’s the story and mission of her life,” he said.

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