ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

A Woman For All Seasons: Mother Teresa

The foundress of the Missionaries of Charity has spent her life supporting the care of the poor.

“No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.” (1 John 4: 12)

Few people, of whatever religious persuasion, have not heard of Mother Teresa, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity. Her life, and that of each of her Sisters, is totally dedicated to caring for the poorest of the poor. Unlike most religious, members of her community live in the same dire poverty as the neediest of those they serve. Each Sister has only a wash bucket, two habits and a few prayer books for her personal use.

Born in Yugoslavia August 27, 1910 of Albanian peasant stock, Agnes (Mother Teresa’s baptismal name) was one of three children. In school she joined the Sodality and was read the letters of a Yugoslav Jesuit who worked with the destitute in the Bengal Missions. Agnes volunteered to go, and was advised to contact the Loreto nuns in Ireland who had a mission in the Calcutta diocese.

At age 18 she entered the Loreto Abbey in Dublin and from there traveled to India to make her Novitiate. Upon taking her temporary vows she worked and taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta. She took her final vows as a Sister of Loreto in 1937.

During her teaching years she became very disturbed at the dire poverty she witnessed in Calcutta. In 1946, while on a train headed for Darjeeling where she was to make a retreat, she heard “a call within a call,” to give up the comforts of her convent and serve God among the poor in the streets of Calcutta.

Immediately, Mother Teresa requested permission of her superiors to live outside the convent. Her request was sent to Rome. Finally, in April of 1948, she received permission from Pope Pius XII to leave Loreto and live the life of a religious in Calcutta’s slums. She took off her Loreto habit and donned a white sari with a blue border, pinned a cross to her shoulder, and went to Patna where she spent three months in nurse’s training with the American Medical Missionary Sisters.

By Christmas, 1948, she was back in Calcutta and temporarily living with the Little Sisters of the Poor. Her days were spent visiting impoverished families and bringing together children who were not wanted by the schools. She tutored these youngsters in hygiene and taught them to read and write. The “slum school” grew rapidly as more and more poor children learned of Mother Teresa. In 1949, help arrived in the form of her first recruit – a girl she had taught while with Loreto. In fact, the first ten girls to join the new order were all former students of Mother Teresa.

In 1950, Rome approved the new congregation as the Missionaries of Charity. In 1952, the group’s first Home for the Dying was opened, receiving from the streets all those refused admittance by hospitals. Since that year, the congregation has grown amazingly, and now has members in many parts of the world, including the Middle East.

Each Sister takes four vows – the three religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and a vow promising to serve Christ “in his distressing disguise – the poorest of the poor.” The Sisters live their vow in the spirit of the commandment, “Love one another.” And as Mother Teresa herself says, “Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within the reach of every hand. Anyone may gather it and no limit is set. Everyone can reach this love through meditation, the spirit of prayer and sacrifice, and an intense inner life.”

Vince Treanor is a freelance writer and sociologist.

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español