Catholic Mission reflects on Mother Teresa centenary

04/08/2010

As we near the centenary of Mother Teresa's birth (26 August), Catholic Mission National Director Martin Teulan reflects on her service to the poor and the witness of her faith.

Mother Teresa
 
In life Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910 -1997) was a household name, the most famous missionary of modern times. Her selfless service to the poor, sick and dying was the living embodiment of Christian charity, piety and love.

Mother Teresa’s tireless missionary work was known to millions, believers and non-believers alike. Revered in her lifetime, she received many awards and dedications, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971) and the Nobel Peace Prize (1979).

Born on 26 August 1910, Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu in the city of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, the centenary of her birth is August 26, 2010.

As a missionary Mother Teresa was a great believer in the cumulative effects of doing God’s work in the world.

She once remarked, “We cannot do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Small in stature perhaps, Mother Teresa’s influence went far beyond her own individual efforts.

Today the Missionaries of Charity congregations she founded in the slums of Kolkata number thousands of active and contemplative sisters, brothers and priests. They can be found working  in 133 countries, from Russia and Eastern Europe, to Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their diverse ministries are supported by more than a million lay co-workers.

'Call within a call'

What a contrast to the daunting mission that faced the tiny religious sister who stepped outside the gate of the Loreto convent and onto the crowded streets of Kolkata on an August day in 1948. A little more than a week short of her 38th birthday, it was on this day that Mother Teresa first donned the white, blue-bordered sari that would inimitably be associated with her sisterhood for ever after.

How completely unnoticed in the noise and bustle of the city she must have been, giving reality to her new mission, her “call within a call” to bring the poor and neglected to Jesus.

Alone in those first days in the slums of Kolkata she visited families, washed the sores of some children, cared for an old man lying sick on the road and nursed a woman dying of hunger and tuberculosis. Each day she would receive Holy Communion and set out, rosary in hand, to find and serve Jesus in “the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for.”

Soon many of her old students joined her in ministry. In 1950, she founded the congregation of the Missionaries of Charity whose vow is to give “wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.”

Today in modern Kolkata the congregation runs 19 homes for women, orphans and for the dying. Throughout the world where the needs are great Mother Teresa’s legacy is far-reaching and ever growing, evidenced in the multitude of ministries which her congregations dedicate in service of society’s marginalised peoples.

On the occasion of what would have been her 100th birthday, Catholic Mission’s National Director Martin Teulan expressed his admiration for Mother Teresa as “the model modern missionary” and “a contemplative in action.”

“Mother Teresa’s passion was service to people who are poor. That service was a great witness of her faith which she actively shared with everyone she met,” Mr Teulan said.

“By her example she brought many others to service in Christ. She was a significant spiritual leader. Towards the end of her life she also responded to the questions of justice, addressing the causes of the poverty she encountered every day around the world.

“Every Catholic today should aspire to follow her example of service, faith-sharing and work for justice.”

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