Mother Teresa helping dedicate convent here 81-year-old friend of poor will attend Mass, visit nuns.

August 05, 1992|By Bruce Reid and Frank P. L. Somerville | Bruce Reid and Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writers

Victoria Goldbech, 72, a lifelong member of St. Wenceslaus Church in East Baltimore, said she hoped to touch a "living saint" today.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, one of the world's most admired religious figures, is scheduled to help dedicate a convent for her order of Roman Catholic nuns today near the church, at Collington and Ashland avenues.

Mother Teresa also planned to attend a special Mass for invited guests this afternoon in St. Wenceslaus.

Mrs. Goldbech is not alone.

As city sanitation crews feverishly cleaned the streets around the church in preparation for Mother Teresa's visit, members of St. Wenceslaus and some residents of the surrounding neighborhood hoped to at least catch of glimpse of the tiny woman they say has done so much good around the world.

"It's remarkable what she has done, considering her health," said Christopher Goldbech, 74, who has been a member of St. Wenceslaus for 43 years. He is to serve as an usher at today's Mass.

The Rev. Arthur Gildea, pastor of St. Wenceslaus, said he feared that the visit would attract more of a crowd than expected. "The phones have been ringing off the hook these past few days," he said.

He and some residents near the church hope the visit will offer some hope to a neighborhood plagued by shootings and other drug-related violence. "Her presence brings everyone's mind to God," Father Gildea said.

"It gives me hope," said Annie Mae Lockett, 57, who lives near St. Wenceslaus on North Duncan Street. "I'm glad they've come to clean up [the trash]. 'Cause if they hadn't, I would've gotten out here myself and done it."

Mother Teresa, the 81-year-old superior of the Missionaries of Charity, which she founded in India in 1950, was being driven to Baltimore from the American headquarters of the order in the Bronx, N.Y.

After the Mass, she and Baltimore Archbishop William H. Keeler were to lead a Eucharistic procession around the corner to the formerly vacant convent of the parish in the 800 block of N. Collington Ave., where four members of the Missionaries of Charity recently took up residence.

They have established a small hospice for AIDS patients on the top floor.

Mother Teresa has been in ill health, and it was not known whether she would return to New York soon after the dedication or spend the night in the Collington Avenue convent.

"A new chapter in the rich history of the archdiocese begins this week as Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity bring to the poor of our city the Gift of Hope," the archbishop said from his office at Baltimore's Catholic Center on Cathedral Street. Beyond ministering to people afflicted with acquired immune deficiency syndrome in their own hospice and elsewhere, and visiting the sick at Johns Hopkins and other local hospitals, the exact nature of the work of the Missionaries of Charity in Baltimore has not been defined.

This becomes the 21st Roman Catholic diocese in the United States -- the 13th U.S. archdiocese -- where Mother Teresa's nuns have opened a convent.

The four resident sisters first moved to Baltimore in April, living temporarily in the old St. Alphonsus convent on Saratoga Street near Park Avenue before the vacant St. Wenceslaus building was turned over to them.

In recent years, Mother Teresa has turned her attention to the AIDS epidemic and has opened hospices for AIDS patients in New York, Philadelphia, Washington -- and now Baltimore.

Born Agnes Ganxhe Bojaxhiu in Macedonia, the daughter of Albanian peasants, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

She accepted it "in the name of the hungry, of the naked, of the homeless, of the blind, of the lepers, of all those who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society."

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