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Like Pope Francis, many will continue to call her ‘Mother Teresa’

Members of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity order fill a few rows at the front of St. John Cantius Parish on the North Side on Sunday. | Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

Mother Teresa is officially a saint.

But if the words “St. Teresa” fail to roll off the tongue, forgiveness is surely in order. None other than Pope Francis admitted Sunday he will have a hard time adjusting to her new title. The maternal tenderness Teresa brought to her mission to serve society’s outcasts simply made the word “mother” too fitting.

“Spontaneously, we will continue to say ‘Mother Teresa,’ ” Francis said to applause during Teresa’s canonization ceremony in Vatican City.

Meanwhile, inside Chicago’s St. John Cantius Parish on the North Side, a member of Teresa’s own Missionaries of Charity order referred to the freshly canonized saint as “Mother Teresa.” During a mass there intended to celebrate Teresa’s sainthood, Auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz offered the congregation “St. Mother Teresa.”

But later, standing outside Holy Name Cathedral, Joanna Jaworowski explained to a reporter that, “there’s something special about ‘mother.’ ”

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Teresa was born Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in 1910. She arrived in India in 1929 as a sister of the Loreto order, and in 1946 she received what she described as a “call within a call.” It was to found a new order dedicated to caring for the most unloved and unwanted, the “poorest of the poor” in the slums of Kolkata.

Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity order went on to become one of the most well-known in the world, with more than 4,000 sisters in their trademark blue-trimmed white saris, doing as Teresa instructed: “small things with great love.” The “saint of the gutters” was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and she died in 1997.

Jaworowski, a lifelong Catholic from Pittsburgh who visited Chicago over the weekend with her husband, said the word “saint” is “extremely holy.” But she said the word “mother” also “feels very important,” if not quite equal.

“I think it’s difficult as a woman and as a mother,” Jaworowski said. “There’s something about that word that is very sacred to me, ‘mother.’ ”

Her husband, Greg Jaworowski, said he took part in World Youth Day in Poland this year. And two years after the canonization of John Paul II, he said he found it surprisingly easy to refer to the late pope as a saint. He said “it’ll happen” for Teresa, too.

But Joanna Jaworowski predicted “it will definitely take time and repetition” for the world to abandon the maternal title that has long been assigned to Teresa.

“She’s Mother Teresa,” Joanna Jaworowski said. “You look at a picture of her. It’s Mother Teresa.”

Contributing: AP