As Mother Teresa of Calcutta moves closer to officially becoming a saint, New Orleanians remember several times the beloved religious leader visited the city.
On Tuesday, Pope Francis announced that Mother Teresa will be named a saint on Sept. 4. That date marks the eve of the 19th anniversary of her death in 1997.
In 2000, a very public tribute to Mother Teresa - a lifesize bronze statue - was erected in New Orleans' St. Louis Cemetery Number 3 on Esplanade Ave.
The beloved religious figure's first trip to New Orleans came nearly 40 years ago, in July 1976, when she spoke to the Catholic Daughters of America convention which was being held in the city. She also appeared with Archbishop Philip Hannan at a prayer service at the Municipal Auditorium.
“I believe the greatest development of the human life is to die in peace with God,” she told those at the religious convention, speaking of her work with the poor and destitute.
At the Municipal Auditorium, she asked that a prayer be said in thanksgiving for all those who had helped her cause. “I am very grateful to God for giving me this opportunity and thank you. You have come often to our poor to feed them and clothe them.”
During her 1976 trip, Hannan asked her to establish a convent in New Orleans and join in the local church’s expanding network of anti-poverty program. She declined, but did later establish centers for her Missionaries of Charity in Lafayette and Baton Rouge.
During her stay in the city in 1976, Mother Theresa spent the night on the campus of St. Michael Special School in the Irish Channel. She had requested lodging that would not only offer her a room in which to sleep, but also an adoration chapel where she could pray. The School Sisters of Notre Dame, and Sr. Lillian McCormack, who founded St. Michael, hosted Mother Theresa at the Chippewa Street school. The chapel was later renamed in her honor and a campaign is currently underway to restore the building.
Eight years later, Mother Teresa returned to the city, to speak at the 1984 World’s Fair and deliver two public addresses at the University of New Orleans. On Oct. 21, 1984, she spoke to two audiences, with one made up entirely of young people, at her request. She also appeared at a prayer breakfast at the Fairmont (Roosevelt) Hotel.
Mother Theresa visited Baton Rouge the following year. She made another visit to New Orleans in 1986 and stayed with the Sisters of the Holy Family at their convent on Chef Menteur Highway.
By the time of her death, Mother Teresa's India-based Missionaries of Charity supported 4,000 nuns and ran hundreds of orphanages, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics around the world.
She was beatified in 2003 by
Pope Francis officially cleared Mother Teresa for sainthood on Dec. 17, 2015, recognizing her "miraculous healing" of a Brazilian man with multiple brain abscesses, the Vatican said.