Gjonaj hosts planning at campaign office for Mother Teresa canonization

Gjonaj hosts planning at campaign office for Mother Teresa canonization
Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj speaks at his campaign office on Friday, August 26 during a planning session with a committee working on a celebration of the Albanian-born Mother Teresa’s canonization. The event will take place in Battery Park in Manhattan on Sunday, September 4.
Photo by Walter Pofeldt

The canonization of the Mother Teresa as a saint will lead to many celebrations, including a Manhattan family-themed gathering that will likely be attended by many Bronxites.

The borough’s Albanian-American community is coming together to remember Mother Teresa of Calcutta, an Albanian Catholic nun, soon-to-be saint and Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

Planning for the New York area celebration of her canonization is underway.

A planning session for the event in Manhattan’s Battery Park took place on Friday, August 26 at Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj’s campaign office in Morris Park.

The assemblyman is part of a committee developing the celebration, which takes place on Sunday, September 4, from noon to 8 p.m., with a live simulcast from the Vatican at 4 p.m.

It will include family-themed events, ethnic Albanian and Indian dancing, music, games, food and giveaways.

“Because her mission was established in the south Bronx, and she has helped so many Bronxites, the borough will be there to remember Mother Teresa and celebrate her in a way that is fitting,” said Gjonaj.

The Albanian community would like to have a role in planning and celebrating with people from all walks of life who recognize Mother Teresa’s contributions the poor and to humanity in the four corners of the world, said Gjonaj.

The assemblyman recalled her visit to his Albanian Catholic church on Park Avenue near East Tremont Avenue when he was a child.

“I did not know who she was but I knew something was different because we were celebrating Mass outdoors,” Gjonaj recalled, adding that the parking lot of the church was packed with people.

The Battery Park event will be an all-day event where people of all different age groups, faiths and backgrounds can partake of the festivities, said the assemblyman, adding that it was not a religious event per se.

“For the Catholics, it is tremendous honor to be canonized into sainthood,” he said. “For all of us, it is remembrance of a person who served the poorest of the poor who were not even Catholic.”

Gjonaj estimated that about 20 people had a hand in the planning session at his campaign office on August 26.

For Albanian-Americans who met Mother Teresa during her missionary work around the globe, the canonization is a time rich with vivid recollections of the Missionaries of Charity’s founder.

That order was founded by Mother Teresa in 1950 and continues to work around the world, including at its East 145th Street convent.

Gjek Gjonlekaj was a freelance journalist who covered Mother Teresa at a 1988 visit to the United Nations and who invited her to visit the borough and meet with its Albanian-Americans, which did at St. Rita of Cascia Church that year.

He said she will be unique as a saint because she is not instantly identifiable with a particular country or region, but rather that she worked with the poorest in every continent, caste and faith.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procc[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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