The US bishops, meeting in Baltimore for their annual fall assembly, voted Nov. 17 to inscribe St. Teresa of Kolkata, known during her life as Mother Teresa, in the Liturgical Calendar of the United States.
The bishops voted to include her feast day as an optional memorial that could be celebrated in the Mass on Sept. 5, the anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death.
The vote passed overwhelmingly 213-0, with one abstention. The action still needs the approval of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments before it takes effect.
“She is an incredible example of encounter,” Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay said ahead of the vote.
“Some of her quotes I use frequently in teaching and homilies, and they’re very powerful and effective in moving the heart and helping people to recognize Christ, especially…in the poor, but also in those around them. So I think there’s a great devotion to her in many ways. And I think that we would be deeply served by putting this in our calendar,” he said.
Memorials can either be optional or obligatory, and are celebrations of a saint or saints. While Catholics can liturgically commemorate any canonized saint, it does not always mean the given saint is included in the Church’s universal calendar of optional or obligatory memorials.
Mother Teresa was a missionary nun who worked and lived among the poor in India. She taught poor children, set up orphanages and houses for those suffering from AIDS, and cared for the sick.
In 1950, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity which quickly grew from one house for the sick and dying to nearly 500 houses worldwide. In 1979 she received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Though originally from Macedonia, Mother Teresa was an honorary American citizen, an honor conferred on her in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton. Honorary American citizenship has been given to just seven other individuals and only two, including Mother Teresa, have received it while living.
She died on Sep. 5, 1997 at age 87. She was beatified six years after her death by St. John Paul II on Oct. 19, 2003. Pope Francis canonized her on Sep. 4, 2016.