WASHINGTON — The National Cathedral in Washington has a special place to honor those who have taken significant, profound, and life-changing actions in the fight for human rights and social justice.
It’s called the “Human Rights Porch,” and within the last year, two images in stone have been added - those of U.S. civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, and Novel Peace Laureate Mother Teresa.
At the choral evensong service held to dedicate the carving of Mother Teresa, the Reverend Samuel Lloyd paid tribute to the Albanian nun who spent her life caring for the poor and the oppressed.
“This strong minded nun, fled from public attention as she immersed herself, we could almost say, lost herself in serving some of the most vulnerable, poor people on earth,” said Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III, former dean of the National Cathedral.
Lloyd said the Nobel Laureate never sought the fame she achieved.
"No one could have imagined this kind of renown for this tiny eighteen-year-old Albanian woman who left home to join the sisters of Loretto Catholic mission community," he said.
Mother Teresa’s carving stands opposite one of American civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Only three other people are honored in this section of the Cathedral - former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, former Cathedral Dean and Bishop of Washington John T. Walker and Archbishop Oscar Romero.
Cathedral stone carver Sean Callahan created the images, from original clay sculptures by artist Chas Fagan.
“The challenge on my end was to create a likeness of someone who is completely recognizable around the world and then create a unique one,” said Fagan.
Callahan said the placement of the two women in the Human Rights Porch is very appropriate.
“Mother Teresa is a natural choice for a human rights bay. And Rosa Parks... it's nice having two humble women complementing each other on either side of the arch.”
For Howard University professor Abner B. Lall, the dedication recognizes Mother Teresa’s connection to his native India, where for decades she cared for the poorest of the poor.
“It is interesting that a Christian lady is first assisted by the indigenous Hindu religion to start her great work,” said Lall.
Patty Johnson, who works on social justice issues for the Cathedral, called Mother Teresa a dynamic and humble symbol who found her spirit when she looked at the spirit of those who had so little.
“I am just happy that we honored her this evening, we added her to our Human Rights Porch and that we can hopefully, all of us, recommit ourselves to reaching out to those who are on our street here in our city of Washington, D.C., and all across the country and the world, the least, the last, the lost, the marginalized, the oppressed because that’s what she stood for and that’s what we need to do,” said Johnson.
Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, was beatified by the Catholic Church nine years ago this month [October], and the Vatican says she is on a “fast track” to sainthood.