In just a few short days, as Blessed Mother Teresa becomes Saint Teresa all the faithful will exclaim, “Finally!” It’s not like we didn’t see this coming. During her life, Mother Teresa was often thought of as a saint among us. While there is a formal process by which an individual is ‘canonized’ it really just felt like a matter of time since her 1997 passing. As a dear friend of fellow saint, St. John Paul II, Mother Teresa leaves behind a legacy of faith, hope, and of charity. Namely, St. Teresa’s legacy will be wrapped up in the religious order which she founded. Here are ten facts about the Missionaries of Charity:
1. It was founded over 65 years ago!
Founded on October 7th of 1950 as a diocesan ministry in Calcutta, Mother Teresa described her newly established ministry as a means of caring for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” (In her own words)
2. There is a Brother organization
This movement was not isolated to just a sect of newly formed religious sisters. In 1963, the order’s fraternal counterpart took shape as the Missionary Brothers of Charity; the offshoot was founded jointly by Brother Andrew (formerly Ian Travers-Ballan) and Mother Teresa, herself.
3. They operate in dozens of countries
Meeting an obvious, but often forgotten need, the Missionaries of Charity received permission in 1965, by Pope Paul VI, to expand beyond their national borders into other countries. The movement spread first into Venezuela, then to Rome and parts of Asia and Africa.
4. They are particularly known for their vow of poverty
As a part of a threefold vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Missionaries of Charity are known, in particular, for the devout nature of their vow of poverty. The sisters are allowed to own: three saris (one to wear, one to wash, one to mend), three habits, a girdle, a pair of sandals, a crucifix, a plate and cutlery set, a canvas bag, a prayer book, and a rosary (of course). Certain additional provisions for clothing are allowed based on the climate in which they live.
5. They care for the poor in America
By the mid-90’s the Missionaries of Charity, and their affiliates, included lay and ordained missionaries and had finally reached the United States when they set up their first home in the Bronx, New York.
6. It takes 9 years to join the community
To become a sister in the Missionaries of Charity, one must discern through an initial period called ‘Aspirancy’, a secondary period of in-depth intellectual formation known as a ‘Postulancy’, and a tertiary period (and beginning of actual religious life) in the Novitiate. The entire process is roughly nine years long, but the benefits are eternal.
7. Like St. Neri, Mother Theresa stepped down
For a very brief time, Mother Teresa had stepped down as the Order’s head, but was soon voted back in.
8. She remained the Superior General until close to her death
In her advanced age, and about six months before her time of death, Mother Teresa was succeeded as Superior General by Sister Mary Nirmala Joshi, a Hindu-turned-Catholic from Nepal.
9. They have suffered persecution
Ministry in the Church is never without sacrifice. On two occasions in particular, in 1998 and in 2016, several sisters from the Missionaries of Charity found themselves victims of religiously-motivated violence. A total of seven sisters, between the two incidents, were killed.
10. They still minister abroad and at home
Although a global religious order, the Missionaries of Charity still have a strong presence in India where they began under Mother Teresa. In Calcutta they have as many as 19 homes for women, orphaned children, the diseased, and the terminally ill. Their ministry extends to all who find themselves in need.
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40