The relics, one a reliquary containing some of Mother Teresa’s blood, and another containing a lock of her hair, along with her crucifix, rosary, sandals and sari, or religious habit will be displayed in the church.
The crucifix was the one worn by Mother Teresa for the 67 years of her religious profession, from 1931 at the age of 20 years until her death in 1997 at age 87. The rosary and sandals were those used by Mother Teresa at the time of her death.
The relics are being exhibited in preparation for the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s birth on August 26. They are being displayed in many of the places where Mother Teresa visited during her lifetime. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. was the first place where the relics were displayed in the United States. Other locations where the relics were exhibited are Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and Memphis. They will be at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Baton Rouge on the morning of July 25 before coming to Lafayette.
Mother Teresa visited St. Genevieve Church in 1986 as part of the preparation for the establishment of a convent for the Missionaries of Charity in Lafayette. She also participated in a prayer service at the Cajundome on July 10, 1986.
Father Joseph Brennan, retired priest of the Diocese of Lafayette and pastor of St. Genevieve Church at the time of her visit, was a close friend of Mother Teresa. Father Brennan said that she had a great influence on his life, and stated, “My trips to India and Calcutta matured me as a priest.” He added that it was a wake-up call for him, a priest, who was used to the comforts of air conditioning, to find himself worshipping in the heat and conditions of Calcutta. Father Brennan said “As her relics come back to Lafayette, so her spirit will be here too. She gave light to the world – it’s up to us to keep it shining.”
Mother Teresa was beatified on October 19, 2003, the first step in the process of recognition as a saint. The certification of a second miracle is required before she can be canonized, or named a saint.
Her order, the Missionaries of Charity consist of over 4,500 sisters active in 133 countries. Their mission is wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor. The sisters’ convent in Lafayette is on Arthur Street.
There is a great misunderstanding about the veneration of relics in the Catholic Church, especially among non-Catholics. Veneration is not worship, and is a sign of the love and devotion which Catholics demonstrate towards those who served God heroically during their lives on earth. The biblical roots of the practice can be found in the Old Testament and in the New Testament connected with the healings attributed to touching the handkerchief carried by St. Paul (Acts 19:11-12).