West Belfast street celebrates canonisation of Mother Teresa
THE canonisation of Mother Teresa by Pope Francis in Rome on Sunday was marked by celebration and prayer in a street in west Belfast, where she spent around 18 months of her life.
Saint Teresa, as she will now be officially known, arrived in Ballymurphy in the autumn of 1971 along with four other nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded in 1950.
Following Mass in Corpus Christi parish in the Springhill area yesterday morning, young and old alike gathered to say prayers at a specially dedicated sculpture to Mother Teresa at the home of parishioner Mary McNeill.
Unveiled in 2009 and designed by artist Deirdre Mackel, the sculpture was named "From Calcutta to Springhill" although is known locally as "The saint that lived in the street."
It is adorned with quotes from Mother Teresa, including one which states: "Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."
The sculpture sits in the front garden of Ms McNeill's home in Springhill Avenue, just yards from where Mother Teresa and her nuns settled in the same street upon their arrival in west Belfast.
They left suddenly 18 months later, with a BBC documentary in 2011 hearing conflicting claims about whether they left of their own free will or came under pressure from the Catholic Church.
Paying homage at the sculpture to the newly canonised saint, parishioners recalled with fondness their memories of a woman who "lifted the whole place."
Joan McCoubrey (79) said Mother Teresa was a regular visitor at her family home and said she "prays to her every single day."
She told The Irish News: "My husband did a lot of work fixing things up at the nun’s house.
"The nuns offered sewing and crotchet classes for the kids in the area. They were very, very good people.
"When they were going they left a statue of Saint Teresa with me. I have still got that statue. I have got all those memories."
Mrs McCoubrey added: "I pray to her every day. We will never see people like that back here again."
Geraldine McDonnell, then aged 11, recalled being one of hordes of children who visited the nun’s home in Springhill Avenue.
She said: "She was lovely and was very active in the community here. We never imagined of course that we would be here years later talking about her."
The current parish priest of Corpus Christi, Father Darach Mac Giolla Catháin, said the area had "a real sense of pride" in Mother Teresa.
"Saints are real people who lived real lives. Pope Saint John Paul II was very clear that we should have contemporary saints who we can relate to."
He added: "Saint Mother Teresa literally walked these streets, people were on the receiving end of her help."
Tommy Holland, who helped organise the celebration, said the nun's house was "a safe haven" for children in the area at a turbulent time politically.
"Outside there were bombs and gun battles but in there it was a safe haven."
He added: "On one occasion at the barracks, people were rioting and the soldiers were firing plastic bullets, but suddenly Mother Teresa and the nuns appeared from a side street and everything immediately stopped."
Mr Holland said his own mother was "very upset" when Mother Teresa and her fellow nuns left the area.
He said: "People in the area never got the chance to say goodbye, to say thank you. People protested to the bishop."
"She showed love and compassion to the people of Springhill and Ballymurphy and the people here reciprocated it.
"They lifted the whole place and not many people can say that their neighbour was a saint."