The portrait of Mother Teresa displayed on the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica at her Vatican canonization on Sunday, Sept. 4, was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and painted by renowned American artist Chas Fagan.
A graduate of Yale University, Fagan has painted portraits of all the U.S. presidents — a collection that regularly tours the country for the White House Historical Association. He lives and works in Charlotte, N.C.
Also an accomplished sculptor, Fagan’s pieces include a bronze of President Ronald Reagan that stands in the Capitol rotunda and likenesses of Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks that are carved into the stone detail of the narthex of Washington’s National Cathedral.
The official canonization image was seen publicly for the first time at a press conference in Washington, D.C., at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine on Thursday, Sept. 1. It was commissioned by the Knights as a gift to the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa in 1950.
The Knights’ gift also includes the printing of more than 1 million prayer cards bearing the new image, that were distributed at the canonization Mass led by Pope Francis. Reproductions of the portrait were also given to the Missionaries of Charity and the poor they serve around the world.
“The Knights of Columbus has been privileged to work closely with Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity since the 1970s,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “We always felt a special affinity with Mother Teresa, since our first principle is charity. As with her, that principle manifests itself in our own work and also through our help and support for the poor and vulnerable — those on the margins of society.”
The Knights of Columbus printing plant in New Haven, Conn., has done other assignments for Mother Teresa’s congregation.
In 1988, the Knights were first honored to work with Mother Teresa, who personally delivered her order’s constitutions and official book of prayers to be created by the printing plant that is now supporting her canonization.
At the time, in a talk to nearly 600 K of C employees, she thanked “the Knights of Columbus for all the good things they have done for the people of God.”
In 1992, Mother Teresa was chosen as the first recipient of the Gaudium et Spes Award, the highest honor that the Knights bestow.