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Albanian community celebrates Mother Teresa

Get on the bus!

The Albanian community in the borough was overflowing with pride as Albanian-born Mother Teresa was honored at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the anniversary of her 100th birthday on Thursday, August 26.

A group of pilgrims took a chartered bus in the late afternoon from the only street named in her honor in the city, “Mother Teresa Way” at Lydig Avenue and Holland Avenue, for a ride to a mass at St. Patrick’s in honor of one of the world’s great humanitarians. The mass topped off what was a day of celebration in the borough’s Albanian community as it honored Mother Teresa. Councilman Jimmy Vacca sponsored a day of service in her honor and the bus that brought the group to St. Patrick’s.

“We had a fantastic response to this day of service over the past three weeks, as we have been collecting food for the needy,” Vacca said as the crowd boarded the bus. “I want future generations to remember this lady of international renown. We have memorialized her by the renaming of this street, and we have been recognized all over our country on Fox television for our fight to have the Empire State Building lit in her honor.”

Earlier in the day, Vacca was joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn as the trio shopped on Lydig Avenue for the poor. Food collected or purchased was donated to the Jewish Community Council of Pelham Parkway’s food pantry.

For those in the Albanian community making the trip to Manhattan, many said that they were grateful to the Archdiocese of New York for allowing the mass to be said in both Albanian and English.

“I am extremely grateful that we have received permission to have the mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in her memory,” said Mark Gjonaj, an attendee. “It is especially meaningful to me because I met Mother Teresa in the mid-1970s when I was seven or eight years old and she visited the Albanian church that was then on Park Avenue near East Tremont Avenue.”

Cin Gjonaj, Mark’s uncle, remembers the encounter with Mother Teresa in the 1970s as a formative experience in his life. He remembers that at the time, she had recently gone to the grave site of a murdered dictator of Albania and prayed for him.

“She told us then that she was a ‘tool of Christ,’ Cin Gjonaj said. “We asked her questions like where love comes from and she told us that it begins in the family. She said that if you love your family members, you will love other people.”

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