Mother Teresa | Sunday Observer

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa, honoured as Saint Teresa of Calcutta in the Catholic Church will be remembered world over in a special way on September 5 which marks the 22nd death anniversary of the legendary Saint who devoted her life to care for and serve the sick and the poor.

Masses and prayers will be offered across the world in remembrance of one of the greatest missionaries and humanitarians of modern times whose selfless service helped restore dignity and give meaning to the lives of millions of people rejected by society.

All those who knew her will pay the highest tribute to her and invoke God’s blessings on the mission she embarked on to save the abandoned, the dying and the destitute.

‘Masses and special services will be held in all homes of the Missionaries of Charity in Sri Lanka on September 5 to pray for all the Missionaries of Mother Teresa,” Superior, Mother Teresa’s Home Mattakkuliya, Rev. Sr. Elisa MC said.

The life and work of this iconic personality has greater significance to the Catholic Community of Sri Lanka as she had stepped foot on this blessed land thrice, in 1966, 1967 and 1984 to visit one of her missionary Nuns in Balagala, Hendala according to records. The Parish Community of ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Succour’, Balagala will mark the death anniversary and the historic visit of St. Teresa by celebrating Mass on September 7 at 7 a.m. and naming a street in the parish as St. Teresa’s Mawatha as a tribute to the great missionary admired throughout the world for her steadfast love and commitment to care for the downtrodden and the marginalized.

The congregation founded by St. Teresa in 1948 is present in over 150 countries with over 5,000 nuns and priests devoted to uplift the dying and the abandoned. The congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was established in Sri Lanka in 1985 and since then the mission had spread through the length and breadth of the country serving the most needy in eight homes.

The Albanian-Indian nun and missionary experienced what she later described as ‘the call within the call’ on September 10, 1946, when she travelled by train to the Loreto Convent in Darjeeling from Calcutta for her annual retreat. “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith”. Joseph Langford later wrote, “Though no one knew it at the time, Sister Teresa had just become Mother Teresa”.

The congregation runs homes for people dying of HIV/AIDA, leprosy and tuberculosis. It also runs dispensaries, mobile clinics, soup kitchens, orphanages, schools and conducts children and family counselling programs.

St. Teresa received a number of honours, including the 1962 Roman Magsaysay Peace Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She was canonised on September 4, 2016 and the anniversary of her death (September 5) is her feast day. A controversial figure during her life and after her death, St. Teresa was admired by many for her charitable work. She wrote in her diary that her first year was fraught with difficulty.

With no income, she begged for food and supplies and experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life during these early months: Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross.

In 1952, Teresa opened her first hospice with help from Calcutta officials. Those brought to the home received medical attention and the opportunity to die with dignity in accordance with their faith. “A beautiful death”, Teresa said, “is for people who lived like animals to die like angels - loved and wanted”.

Teresa had a heart attack in Rome in 1983 while she was visiting Pope John Paul II. Although Teresa offered to resign as head of the Missionaries of Charity, in a secret ballot the sisters of the congregation voted for her to stay and she agreed to continue. Although Teresa had heart surgeries, her health was clearly declining. On March 13, 1997 Teresa resigned as head of the Missionaries of Charity, and she died on September 5.

At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters and an associated brotherhood of 300 members operating 610 missions in 123 countries. 

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