NORTH LAKE — Mother Teresa’s elevation to sainthood had a direct impact on one archdiocesan parish.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish is now St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish to reflect her canonization.
The parish — a merger of St. John, Monches, and St. Clare, North Lake — became Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in 2006.
“We’re very excited,” said Christine Slowinski, parish director of evangelization and stewardship. “St. Teresa is the core of my call to service. Without her, I would not be doing what I am at our parish.”
The parish is in the midst of an expansion project that will increase seating in the worship space at the North Lake site. There is also a worship site in Monches.
According to Fr. William Stanfield, pastor of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, the name change and the expansion are an opportunity to make themselves better known and to be a more inviting and welcoming parish.
“Legally, it is more complicated than we were led to believe and it takes a lot more work than just saying we are now St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish,” he said.
India renamed the city of Calcutta to Kolkata in 2001 to match the Bengali pronunciation, but the parish will retain the Calcutta spelling.
“The archdiocese, through the chancellor, informed us that the name would be St. Teresa of Calcutta,” said Fr. Stanfield.
In recognition of the change, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki will celebrate Mass at 11 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 25, at the newly named St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish at the North Lake School.
Also to celebrate Mother Teresa’s canonization, the parish embarked on a Holy Year pilgrimage to Italy, that began in Assisi, where they celebrated Mass at the church where St. Francis is buried.
According to Fr. Stanfield, Assisi was a great place to begin, not only because Pope Francis took his name and inspiration for his pontificate from St. Francis, but also to connect St. Francis’ life of poverty and prayer which St. Teresa of Calcutta’s example is for us today.
Fr. Stanfield said St. Teresa of Calcutta, as the parish patron, provides a wonderful example and motivation to serve others, especially those most in need.
“Much of her life is well known, since she only died 20 years ago. So as a living saint, she is a sign that we are all called to be saints and live as God’s holy people,” he explained. “I have been reading several books about her, but my main personal experience was when I was in Africa and saw the ministry her Missionaries of Charity were providing the people who had no one else to care for them. I have often reflected on how we are all called to show the same love and care. They are an inspiration for me to be more willing to serve the least.”
According to Fr. Stanfield, the group found the pilgrimage to be a great spiritual experience.
“For the canonization, we were in the first row of the general admitting section and so were within an arm’s reach when the pope passed by in the little popemobile,” he said. “Also, Wednesday, at the audience, it was great to hear our name called out at the beginning as Holy Year pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. It was a momentous event for us to be there and represent the archdiocese and be personally motivated by St. Teresa’s example to live as a better Christian in loving and caring for every person.”
More than 120,000 people were in Rome for the canonization and Fr. Stanfield remembered hearing them announce one other St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish while they were there.
For Slowinski, the opportunity to see Pope Francis twice in one week was a blessing.
“It was very busy and we were tired often, but around each corner was a new discovery,” she said. “We brought many items with us at the papal audience and we each received blessings on us and our families.”
In addition to Assisi and Rome, they traveled to Siena and visited St. Catherine’s home and church.
“We also visited Subiaco, where St. Benedict began his monastic life as a hermit,” said Fr. Stanfield. “We celebrated Mass in all four major basilicas, except St. Mary Major. I concelebrated with Cardinal (James M.) Harvey at his church, St. Paul’s outside the wall.”
The weather was hot, the sites were crowded and there were many stairs, but Slowinski said they knew they were on pilgrimage.
“We began most of our days at Holy Mass at various private chapels, including one at St. Peter’s,” she said. “My most memorable experience of the trip was the canonization and our time at daily Mass as a group. This pilgrimage will prove to be one of the many that add to the excitement of our name change and the completion of our expansion project.”
One of the more touching aspects of the pilgrimage for Fr. Stanfield was when Pope Francis stopped the popemobile near their group to ask for a baby of a Chinese family.
“He kissed the child on the forehead,” he said. “Personally, when he passed by where I stood at the canonization, when he passed he looked twice at me and raised his eyes as a sign of recognition since I was in my clerical garb.”