Only one day before her 19th death anniversary, images of Mother Teresa of Calcutta adorned the whole Vatican City.
After 19 long years, the nun whom the whole world has recognized because of her benevolent acts for the poorest of the poor, will be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church.
For many decades, Teresa’s life became a shining example for everyone to behold in this world riven by war, hunger, and division. Her body was laid to rest 19 years ago, many of us may have only seen her in photos and file videos, but her name, her legacy, and her Missionaries of Charity, lived on until this day.
‘A call within a call’
Teresa became a nun at the age of 18, joining the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland, leaving her family behind at Albania, never to see them again. She also left her Albanian name, Agnes, when she took her vows. It was in Eastern Calcutta where received her ‘call within a call’ while serving as a teacher in a Loreto convent school.
The place was under a bitter famine, and Teresa knew she must do something. She started her missionary work by tending to the sick and giving food to the hungry. Later on, she was joined by 13 other women, founding the Missionaries of Charity.
Because their primary mission was to serve ‘the poorest of the poor,’ Teresa put aside her Loreto habit and wore a plain white sari with blue lining. Her companions all did the same.
For many years, Teresa’s group went to great lengths to save every single person who is suffering from starvation, disease, discrimination, and homelessness. Today, the Missionaries of Charities has more than 4, 500 volunteers and religious working on numerous homes, institutions, and schools throughout the globe.
Abortion, contraception, and fetal morality
Durint that time, then Pope John Paul II was at the forefront defeating communism and the toppling of Berlin Wall, Teresa made all possible way to avoid getting caught in any political strife. Instead, she gave her full attention to her charities, though she was vocal against abortion, which she considered as ‘the worst evil and the greatest enemy of peace.’
She pointed nothing can stop men from killing one another if a mother can simply kill an innocent child. Teresa also gave importance to fetal morality, caring for babies and children in various orphanages managed by her congregation worldwide. She also strongly condemns contraception.
These ideals not only made a concrete character for Teresa that resonated to a worldwide audience, and caught mixed reactions. The nun gained many detractors for her statements, and her congregation was flooded with tons of criticisms.
Mission under fire
Teresa’s work did not always receive praises; sometimes there are negative words, too. Many of her critics decried that her institutions are substandard and dangerous. The medical care given by her missionaries were incorrect, and the medical equipment were all unhygienic and inadequate.
The critics also pointed out that while her constituents are working day and night to take care of countless people, their mother superior gallivanted, meeting powerful world leaders. They believe that the nun simply uses the charitable act to progress further to prominence.
The way her congregation handled donations was also questioned. Her detractors observed how much money Teresa and her missionaries receive, but no improvements were reflected in their homes. They said that she was using the poor as investments for profit, and always expressed her views on many things to attract the people’s attention.
For 69 years of her service, Teresa shrugged off these harsh words and continued to give a helping hand to anyone who needs it. Unfortunately, criticisms towards her congregation lingers until this day.
A decorated nun
Teresa was always pictured as a purely humble woman, wearing only a white habit and nothing more. Yet, she has garnered prestigious awards in her lifetime for her unparalleled commitment in charitable work. Most notable is her Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She gladly accepted the award but refused to get a conventional ceremonial banquet for laureates, and requested that the $192,000 cash prize be given to the poor people in India.
Teresa was also the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, named after a former Philippine president. It is Asia’s highest honor, given to leaders who have shown incredible deeds.
The nun also received the following awards: Nehru Prize, Pope John XXIII Peace Prize, Balzan Prize, and Templeton Prize.
The Catholic Church in the United States was deeply inspired by Teresa’s work, and in 1943 the American bishops founded the Catholic Relief Services to provide the same assistance as the Missionaries of Charity is doing. Years after Teresa’s death, CRS continued to flourish and is now operating in more than 90 countries and helping 130 million people.
From today onward, Teresa’s name will be included in the eternal list of saints. The living saint of the past millennium now dwells in the everlasting realm with God, and her life will inspire all of us perhaps in many more millenniums to come. (Luke Godoy)