Parishioners at the new St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish came together on Sept. 5, St. Teresa’s feast day, to thank her for her example and to ask her continued intercession as they work to unite the former St. Therese Chinese Catholic Parish in Chinatown and St. Barbara Parish in Bridgeport. “St. Mother Teresa made a difference while she was alive and she continues to make a difference now,” said Father Francis Li, pastor of St. Mother Teresa Parish, at St. Barbara Church, 2859 S. Throop St. “She’s making a difference in gathering together people from different neighborhoods, different backgrounds, to praise our God as a new family.” Mother Teresa, Albanian by birth, founded the Missionaries of Charity in India in 1950 to serve the poor in the slums of Kolkata (Calcutta). There are now more than 600 Missionaries of Charity missions in 133 countries. By the time she died in 1997, Mother Teresa may have been the most recognizable woman in the world, said Auxiliary Bishop John Manz, the main celebrant of the Mass. She interacted with everyone from heads of state to the destitute and dying, and she shared the love of Jesus with all of them, he said. Earlier in the Mass, Bishop Manz compared the merging of parishes to a marriage. “It’s not just the two individuals coming together, it’s the two families, and it’s not always too friendly at the beginning,” Bishop Manz said. “Everyone is looking around at the other people, watching what they eat, how they dress, whether they are good dancers.” The two original churches, St. Barbara and St. Therese at 218 W. Alexander St., are both staying open as worship sites. St. Therese Chinese Catholic School is now operating campuses at both sites, with a total of more than 500 students. The feast day Mass featured ushers wearing blue and white sashes, echoing the habits worn by Missionaries of Charity, and music from a combined parish choir — the first time members have sung at a Mass together. Combining parishes as part of the Renew My Church initiative is a practical necessity, Bishop Manz said, but it also is an opportunity for parishioners to see the church beyond their own communities. When parishes do combine, they have the option to choose a new name. “I’m very glad you chose St. Mother Teresa,” he said. “The purpose of naming a parish for a particular saint is that all of us realize that this is what we’re called to be. We’re called to be saints.” Sisters from both the Missionaries of Charity active and contemplative communities attended the Mass. Sister Justus, the superior of the active community in Chicago, said it’s an honor for the new parish to choose the patronage of Mother Teresa. “Mother Teresa must be so happy to be part of both parish communities,” Sister Justus said. “For us, it’s such a privilege to spread what Mother has taught us, to spread the love and light of Jesus.” After Mass, those who attended had the opportunity to venerate a relic of Mother Teresa, which the Missionaries of Charity loaned to the parish. Manz reminded the schoolchildren that Mother Teresa did not know what she would be when she was their age. She found her way, he said, by trying to do every day what God wanted instead of focusing on her own status. “If we really love the Lord, it’s not a question on having titles,” Bishop Manz said. “It’s a question of, when I was hungry, you gave me to eat, when I was thirsty, you gave me to drink, and when I was in prison you visited me.” Parishioners at the standing-room-only Mass said the liturgy was beautiful and inspiring, and it was a reflection of how well the two parishes have managed to come together. “So far so good,” said Jim Bertucci, who was a member of the original St. Barbara Parish. “We officially came together July 1. That’s when the Mass schedule changed.” The Masses alternate between the two worship sites, Bertucci said. The Saturday evening Mass, he said, is at St. Barbara because it has a big enough parking lot to accommodate worshippers. Then he stopped to invite a parishioner from St. Therese to worship at St. Barbara the following weekend.