Hundreds of Christians gathered at Sainte Famille church in Kigali, yesterday, to celebrate the canonisation of Mother Teresa.
Pope Francis proclaimed Mother Teresa a saint on Sunday before a crowd of 120,000 in St Peter’s Square.
The Kigali Mass was graced by prelates, including Thaddée Ntihinyurwa, the archbishop of Kigali; Antoine Kambanda, bishop of Kibungo; White Father Marc, priest of Saint Peter Parish in Cyahafi, in Nyarugenge; Sisters of Mother Teresa residing in Kigali, among others.
Catholics honour Saint Teresa as the embodiment of loving the poor.
In the Holy Mass, bishops connected the life of Saint Teresa to the families and communities in which Christians live, with Archbishop Ntihinyurwa urging the faithful to emulate the example of Saint Teresa.
“Saint Teresa teaches families to love each other, especially loving the poor. She exemplifies real love. Humanity without love is not real humanity,” Archbishop Ntihinyurwa said.
Bishop Kambanda said Mother Teresa’s sainthood holds memorable events for Rwandans.
“For Rwandan Christians, we are lucky because, apart from Saint Paul II, Saint Teresa is the other saint to have visited our land. We must honour her memory,” Kambanda said.
He implored Christians to embrace prayer at all times, referring to Saint Teresa’s words that the “family which doesn’t pray together, don’t last together.”
Meaning for Rwandan Christians?
Saint Teresa visited Rwanda in 1989. She visited Kigali’s home of ‘Sisters of Teresa’ and Nyagatare refugee camp.
Smaragde Mbonyintege, the bishop of Kabgayi Diocese, said the canonisation of Mother Teresa means a lot to Rwandan community.
“The home she created in Kigali, ‘Sisters of Teresa of Calcutta,’ should remind us of her. The remembrance has a positive impact on the Rwandan community in that it caters for the poor, specifically poor children who are marginalised,” Bishop Mbonyintege said.
He said Saint Teresa teaches Christians to be responsible citizens, to care for community, brothers and sisters as a sign of love.
White Father Marc, who travelled with Saint Teresa to Nyagatare during her visit 27 years ago, recalled that she advised Rwandan priests to teach Christians how to live a holy life.
“I remember her saying ‘be as holy as Christ’, it is a powerful word that once binded communities as hard as the rock,” Father Marc said.
He said the life of Saint Teresa teaches citizens to care for the poor: like street kids, and widows.
Rosalia Kampire, 64, from Karoli Lwanga Parish in Kigali, said St Teresa is the embodiment of a true Christian.
“I have come to celebrate the canonisation of St Teresa. She is really the image of a true Christian,” Kampire says.
For Kampire, Saint Teresa reminds her that love for the poor is the bridge to heaven.
Jacques Munyanziza, from Saint Michael Parish, said St Teresa’s actions teach that Christianity flows from parents to children and from children to the next generation.