Northern Ireland

Mother Teresa: Service held in west Belfast to mark canonisation

Prayer service for St Teresa in Belfast
Image caption Prayers were said for St Teresa in Ballymurphy, where she lived for 18 months

A service has been held in west Belfast to mark the canonisation of Mother Teresa who lived there in the 1970s.

The nun, who was revered for her work with the poor in India, was proclaimed a saint by Pope Francis in a ceremony in the Vatican on Sunday.

St Teresa and four nuns moved to Ballymurphy on 2 October 1971 and stayed for 18 months.

Resident Tommy Holland said they referred to her back then as "the saint that lived in our street".

A saint 'rejected by the church' she loved

Image caption Tommy Holland remembers going for recorder lessons in the nuns' house as a child
Image caption The prayer service took place at The Saint That Lived In Our Street sculpture, erected in memory of St Teresa in 2010

St Teresa and the sisters from the Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded in 1950, set up home in Springhill Avenue at a time when violence in Northern Ireland had intensified.

When news of her impending arrival reached residents, there was much excitement and disbelief.

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Media captionService held in west Belfast to mark canonisation of Mother Teresa

Mr Holland, from the Springhill Residents Group, said people worked hard to renovate two derelict houses for St Teresa and her nuns, who he said were "very distinctive" in their blue and white robes. The women lived in one of the houses and the other was used for community activities.

"We called it the craft factory because they used to run creches, make ornaments and basket weaving," said Mr Holland. "We used to sign up for recorder lessons but the main reason was that they made these lovely buns and cakes."

Image copyright Springhill Community Centre
Image caption St Teresa set up house in Ballymurphy and offered classes and cakes to the community

On Sunday, prayers were said at a sculpture, erected in her memory in 2010, following mass at Corpus Christi Church.

The Saint That Lived In Our Street memorial was constructed from material gathered from the church when re-building work was being carried out.

Image caption Some of those who attended the service remember meeting St Teresa as children

Mr Holland said the nuns were a "Godsend" during the Troubles.

"While we were singing in the nuns' house, there were gun battles, bombings and shootings going on outside," he said.

"At that time we called her the saint that lived in our street. It came true as she now is that saint who lived in our street."

Image copyright Springhill Community Centre
Image caption Sewing, cooking and literacy were among the classes offered by the nuns at their Springhill Avenue house
Image copyright Springhill Community Centre
Image caption The nuns, in their unfamiliar habits, were a somewhat strange sight on the streets of Ballymurphy

After 18 months, the Missionaries of Charity sisters left the area amid claims they had been pushed out following disagreements with the Catholic hierarchy, which the Church denies saying they left of their own free will.

"My mum was crying her eyes out when she found out they had just upped and left," Mr Holland said.

"I was actually one of the ones who helped paint the banner 'nuns fired by canon' and we marched down the Falls to Canon Murphy's house to complain and ask why the nuns had left in such terrible circumstances because they were just completely loved by the community."

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