Following the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa on August 26, the United States Postal Service is honoring her with a new 44 cent stamp. It was issued in a special ceremony today at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Postmaster General John Potter dedicated the stamp Sunday along with other officials from both the postal service and the Catholic Church, including the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Auxiliary Bishop of Washington Barry Knestout, Monsignor Walter Rossi of the national shrine, and Sister Leticia, MC, provincial superior of the Missionaries of Charity.
During the ceremony, Potter explained that it is important for the government agency to “focus attention on subjects our country regards with respect and affection, and that is certainly true of Mother Teresa, who believed so deeply in the innate worth and dignity of humankind and worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor, sick, orphaned and dying.”
The postmaster added that he is “very proud” for the U.S. to be “honoring Mother Teresa with such a lasting memorial.” Collectible first-day postmark editions of the new stamp will be available directly through the U.S. Postal Service.
Mother Teresa died in 1997, and was beatified by the Church as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” in 2003. Born in Albania, she founded the Missionaries of Charity in India in the late 1940s, where she resolved to work among the “poorest of the poor” for the rest of her life. The Missionaries of Charity have continued her mission among the sick and destitute in India, and now serve those in extreme need in countries throughout the world.
Blessed Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and was made an honorary citizen of the U.S. in 1996, as an acknowledgment of her remarkable and persistent efforts to relieve the suffering of the very poor.
Although she was appreciative of these honors, and spoke highly of many values expressed in America's founding documents, Mother Teresa also directed blunt criticism toward the materialism and “spiritual poverty” of Western countries, conditions which she believed led to a particular and systematic neglect of the unborn and the elderly.
Prior to receiving her honorary American citizenship, she summed up her message to America in her letter to the Supreme Court:
“I have no new teaching for America. I seek only to recall you to faithfulness to what you once taught the world. Your nation was founded on the proposition—very old as a moral precept, but startling and innovative as a political insight—that human life is a gift of immeasurable worth, and that it deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”
Mother Teresa also addressed a public letter to the Supreme Court on the subject of abortion, which she described as an “infinitely tragic and destructive departure” the American vision of human rights.
Today the work of the Missionaries of Charity in the U.S. have focused particularly on outreach to those suffering from AIDS, and mothers who are facing challenging pregnancies.