Judy Adkins was so busy making sure the Sunday Mass at the Mother Teresa Catholic Mission ran smoothly, she didn’t have much time to watch the special celebration that an overflow crowd had come to see.
The head of Raleigh’s Roman Catholic diocese, Bishop Michael Burbidge, made his first visit to Green Hope High School to celebrate the woman some call the “saint of the gutters.” Burbidge’s visit coincided with a Mass celebrated in Rome by Pope Francis officially naming the Nobel Peace Prize-winner a saint.
Mother Teresa Catholic Mission celebrates Mass for about 800 people each week in the auditorium of the school, and was started about 16 years ago by parent church St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church as the number of weekly attendees continued to rise. The group is in a fast-growing part of western Wake County and is in the process of becoming an independent parish.
Adkins serves as the mission’s coordinator and was busy directing altar servers, ushers and volunteers preparing a post-Mass lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs for the crowd that exceeded the auditorium’s capacity of about 610. Although there was a lot to do, Adkins said she got plenty of help from people who offered to volunteer even before she requested it.
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“People come forward and do little things with great love,” she said.
The mission is active in causes to help the less fortunate. It raises money for charities, goes on mission trips, holds food drives and recently raised $10,000 for an adopted church in Uganda, she said.
Meg Fenu, a member of the mission, said she made the switch from St. Andrew’s Catholic Church earlier this year because the high school is closer to her home and she feels strongly about the mission’s initiatives.
I really believe in Mother Teresa, and I really believe in social justice.
Meg Fenu, a member of the Mother Teresa Catholic Mission
“I really believe in Mother Teresa, and I really believe in social justice,” she said.
The mission had been called the Green Hope Station until it was renamed earlier this year.
Burbidge, who met Mother Teresa, said he was pleased that she made the list of possible names submitted by the congregation.
“I was secretly hoping that St. Teresa of Calcutta was on the list,” he said.
Becoming an official mission is one of the last steps before a group can become an independent parish, because it allows a group to begin raising funds for its own church. Mother Teresa is one of 18 missions in the diocese, and probably one of the closest to becoming an independent parish, said Billy Atwell, a Diocese of Raleigh spokesman.
A piece of land on Yates Store Road, in the area where Wake meets Chatham County, has already been purchased to build the church.
The Diocese of Raleigh, which stretches from the coast to near Burlington, has also been growing quickly, Atwell said. The number of registered parishioners between 2000 and 2015 rose by nearly 80,000 to about 250,000.
Although finding churches for those new parishioners to worship can be can be complicated, having an influx of members is a good problem to have, Burbidge said. Some parts of the country are dealing with a decline of parishioners.
“In 10 years as the bishop here, I will soon dedicate my 15th new church, and I tell other bishops that and they’re somewhat in awe,” he said.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi