Pope Francis celebrates the canonization Mass of St. Teresa of Kolkata in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis celebrates the canonization Mass of St. Teresa of Kolkata in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A small group of Archdiocese of Washington pilgrims were among the hundreds of thousands who gathered Sept. 4 at the Vatican to watch Pope Francis declare Mother Teresa a saint.

“What a wonderful and joyful experience,” said Msgr. Raymond East, pastor of Saint Teresa of Avila Parish in Washington. “She loved us, and we came to show our love for her.”

Some of the archdiocesan pilgrims gathered at the Vatican more than five hours before the start of the Mass to secure a seat for the more than two-hour liturgy.
“This is unbelievable, and I still find it hard to believe I am here witnessing this,” said Diana Anater, one of the Washington area pilgrims.

Under a relentless Roman sun, they gathered with others from around the world to cheer and applaud Pope Francis’s declaration that St. Teresa of Kolkata is the Church’s newest saint.

“Mother Theresa was loved by everyone, regardless of their faith,” said Elice Darrenkamp. “The admiration and respect for her from not just Catholics, but from Hindus, Protestants, and people of all faiths, is a testament to how St. Teresa loved everyone.”

For Albert Darrenkamp, traveling to the Vatican for the canonization “is a really neat and once in a lifetime experience.”

“I know people who have met her,” he said. “They have told me stories about her, so I have firsthand knowledge of Mother Teresa’s sanctity.”

Washington area pilgrims were among the lucky 100,000 to receive a ticket to the Mass. Local media reported that as much as twice that amount jammed St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding streets to witness the canonization.

“The crowds don’t bother me,” said Laura Stein. “To me, it is amazing that so many people are willing to fight the crowds to honor her (St. Teresa of Kolkata). That shows how giving, loving and dedicated she truly was.”

Belinda Held from the Unitours pilgrimage company, who helped navigate the Washington pilgrims through the Roman streets to the Vatican, noted the importance of the Washington pilgrims attending the Mass.

“Because of the fact that Mother Teresa came to Washington, these people (archdiocesan pilgrims) kind of feel the need to be here to pay homage to her,” Held said. “She came to us, so we wanted to be here for her.”