‘Miracle woman’ Monica Besra will pray to mark Mother’s sainthood

Monica-Besra Kolkata, (IANS) As the Vatican confers sainthood on Mother Teresa on Sunday, thousands of miles away in a nondescript West Bengal village, a tribal woman will be deeply engrossed in prayer.

Monica Besra, whose “miraculous cure” started the process of declaring the Mother a saint, will seek her blessings even as the renowned nun is canonised by Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Monica is distraught at not being able to make it to Vatican, but for this tribal woman of South Dinajpur district — whose cure led to the Mother’s beatification, the first step towards sainthood, in 2003 — this moment is equally ecstatic.

“Ever since it was declared that the Mother will become a saint, I wanted to go to Vatican. But things did not work out. I wanted to be there to witness this historic event,” said Besra, who was present at the beatification ceremony conducted by then Pope John Paul II at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican 13 years ago.

“But that hasn’t lessened our happiness. I, along with my entire family and neighbours, will hold special prayers so that her blessings continue to shower on us,” Besra told IANS over the phone.

Diagnosed with a cancerous ovarian tumour and facing death, Besra was “miraculously cured” in 1998 during prayers with some nuns of the Missionaries of Charity — the Mother’s order — on the occasion of the first anniversary of her death.

Besra has said in earlier interviews that she was so sick and could barely walk when she found herself before a photo of Mother Teresa. It was then that she saw a “blinding light”. The nuns are then said to have pressed a religious medallion on her belly — and when she awoke a few hours later, she was cured.

Besra’s cure was subsequently recognised by the Vatican and Mother Teresa was beatified in 2003 as the “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta”.

Despite Vatican’s acceptance of her cure as a miracle, some doctors were sceptical and claimed Besra was cured by medical treatment. They have maintained that all she was suffering from was a cyst, not a tumour, and recovered after prolonged tuberculosis treatment.

But today, Besra, who is about 50 years old, does not dwell on the controversies. The Mother’s canonisation is a special moment, she said, not only for herself and her family, but for most of the residents in Nakor village, some 400 km from Kolkata.

“Besides holding prayers, we will be distributing sweets. Sunday is a special day for us for the entire village,” Besra’s son Raghunath said.

Medaram Jathara

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