Interfaith meet in homage to Mother Teresa

We are happy to announce that Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor of the Indian State of West Bengal and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari will be the Chief Guest at this year’s Mother Teresa Interfaith meeting to be held on Sunday, November 18 at 3 pm at the Christ the King Church (260 Richardson Road) Mt Roskill in Auckland.

Indian Newslink is hosting his visit to New Zealand, as Mr Gandhi will be a Guest of Honour at the Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards Presentation ceremony on Monday, November 19 (from 5 pm) at Sky City Convention Centre in Auckland City.

Mr Gandhi will fly Singapore Airlines courtesy of BNZ Partners, The Title Sponsor of the Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards 2012.

As well as being the grandson of two great leaders of India, Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi has had a distinguished career in the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Foreign Service, before being appointed as the Governor of West Bengal.

The Mother inspires

In suggesting his name to be the Chief Guest at the Interfaith Meeting, Former Loyola College (Chennai) Principal Fr Casimir Raj said that Mahatma Gandhi loved all religions and believed in communal harmony.

Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi followed his grandfather’s footsteps faithfully.

When Gopalkrishna was the Secretary to the President of India, he used to receive Mother Teresa often at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan (President’s Palace) in Delhi. Influenced by her work, he began to love the poor.

After the death of Mother Teresa (September 5, 1997), the sisters and volunteers carried on her work through the ‘Missionaries of Charity’ in Kolkata (then Calcutta) established by her.

Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi served as the Governor of West Bengal from 2004 to 2009. Interestingly, his maternal grandfather Mr Rajagopalachari was the first Governor of this state from 1946 to 1948, before becoming the Governor General of India (1948-1950).

During his tenure as the Governor, Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi had opportunities to witness the work done by Mother Teresa and her missions.

Distinct memories

I have distinct memories of having been blessed by Mother Teresa on a number of occasions but her death in 1997 became an irreparable loss to humanity.

I landed in Kolkata on Thursday, September 11, 1997 with three close friends and visited the St Thomas Church where her body was lying in State.

A mass had been arranged exclusively for us at 1 am.

I kept looking at Mother, who I had known for many years, as my parents, brother and sisters worked closely with her. Our home in Park Circus was close to Mother’s House of the Missionaries of Charity.

As well as meeting her many times, on my own and with friends, I had the privilege of traveling with Mother.

Seeing her body stretched out on a platform filled with flowers and wreaths, my eyes were filled with tears.

Fr Ambrose, Secretary of the Archbishop of Calcutta told me that on hearing Mother’s death, he had rushed to her home.

The world mourns

He said that sisters of the mission had gathered around Mother, whose body was cold and, turning blue. The sisters told him that Mother had difficulty in breathing after supper and that the efforts of Mother‘s American Cardiologist to revive her were futile.

Standing in front of the body, I was overwhelmed by gratitude for having known Mother and associated with a person of courageous and sacrificial love.

I prayed to her for the members of my family and close friends.

The glass case that enclosed her body had been removed that night. It was a rare privilege, as there was nothing between Mother and me.

Personal loss

It was then that I did something spontaneously.

I took off my wedding ring and chain and placed them under her feet.

As it was time to leave, I hurriedly took all those belongings, now more valuable than before, because they carried the blessings of the Mother.

I took a few steps and was shocked that my wedding ring was missing and could not find it despite a vigorous search.

A volunteer joined the search and found the ring within the folds of the white sari beneath Mother’s feet.

My anxiety vanished- Mother would not have allowed me spend a sleepless night worrying; she had kept it safely hidden.

I visited Mother again the following day with my friend Mundakkal Mathew Jacob (Former Governor of Meghalaya), who gave me a copy of statement he had issued following her death.

I had a few occasions to meet and feel the presence of the illuminating radiance of Mother Teresa. Her name will be remembered as an Angel of Peace, Charity and Love.”

State Funeral

Mr Jacob’s presence ensured a pass for me to be at the Netaji Indoor Stadium to attend the funeral on Saturday, September 19, 1997. I knew that it was again a kind act of Mother. Thousands of people were waiting in the streets to have a last glimpse of the body as the cortege passed them on the way to the Stadium, where several heads of state, ministers, diplomats, religious, political leaders had gathered to pay their last respects on their behalf and the people they represented all over the world.

I stood, with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart and prayed.

“Farewell Mother, I pray God to make me a humble servant and carry on your legacy.”

Interfaith Meetings

While I have been, in my own small way, working towards the goals of Mother, the thought of involving the larger communities in Auckland became a reality when we established the Mother Teresa Centennial Committee, which was later renamed the Mother Teresa Interfaith Committee, which comprises representatives of most religions and faiths.

Encouraged by the response to the first meeting held on November 7, 2010 at which former Governor General Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand was the Chief Guest, the Committee decided to make it an annual event.

Former Indian High Commissioner Retired Admiral Sureesh Mehta was the Chief Guest at the meeting held on November 13, 2011 and this year we have the honour of Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi as the Chief Guest on November 18.

The Committee is privileged to have the support of Catholic Bishop of Auckland Diocese Patrick Dunn in conducting the annual meeting.

Wenceslaus Anthony is a devout Christian involved in a number of Church activities in New Zealand. Photo Caption: Mother Teresa with Wenceslaus Anthony in Chennai in 1995.

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