Up close and personal - Missionaries of Charity

MC1.jpgWhat kind of person is prepared to renounce everything to follow Christ into the slums, to serve the poorest of the poor? Sister Wendy Ooi, fsp finds out.

"To those who say they admire my courage, I have to tell them that I would not have any if I were not convinced that each time I touch the body of a leper, a body that reeks with a foul stench, I touch the same Christ I receive in the Eucharist." - Mother Teresa

Left, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, is pictured comforting an ailing man in this undated file photo. CNS photo

Mother Teresa

(1910-1997)

Founder of the Missionaries of Charity

Born on Aug 26, 1910 at Skopje, Macedonia (in former Yugoslavia)

Died on Sep 5, 1997 at Calcutta, India

Beatified on Oct 19, 2003

1979 Nobel Peace Prize Winner

"I am God's pencil. A tiny bit of pencil with which he writes what he likes." - Mother Teresa

(continued on page 2)

In her own words

"I AM ALBANIAN by birth. Now I am a citizen of India. I am also a Catholic nun. In my work, I belong to the whole world. But in my heart, I belong to Christ. I was very young, no more than 12 years old, when, in the heart of my family, I first experienced the desire to belong completely to God.

Mine was a very happy and united family. Following my vocation was a sacrifice which Christ asked of me and my people. When I was 18, I went to the mother house of the Loreto Sisters in Rathfarnham. I left Rathfarnham after only six weeks. I had joined in October 1928 and in January 1929, I went to India to do the novitiate.

I did my novitiate in Darjeeling and took the vows with the Loreto Sisters. For 20 years, I was at work in education in the St. Mary's High School, which was mostly for middle class children. I loved teaching, and in Loreto I was the happiest nun in the world.

On Sep 10, 1946, while I was going by train to Darjeeling for my spiritual retreat, I experienced a call to renounce everything and to follow Christ into the slums, to serve the poorest of the poor.

In a quiet, intimate prayer with our Lord, I heard distinctly, a call within a call. The message was quite clear: I was to leave the convent and help the poor whilst living among them. It was an order.

(continued on page 3)

I left the Loreto Sisters in 1948. Leaving was my greatest sacrifice, and the most difficult thing I have ever done. It was much more difficult than to leave my family and country to enter religious life. But I had the inner command to renounce Loreto to go to serve the poor in the streets, and I had the blessing of obedience.

After leaving Loreto, I was on the street, with no shelter, no company, no helper, no money, no employment, no promise, no guarantee, no security. I prayed, "God, You, only You. I trust in Your call, Your inspiration. You will not let me down." I needed a roof to shelter the abandoned, so I started to search.

Soon, young girls, former students of mine from Loreto, began to join me. They took off their expensive saris with great satisfaction in order to put on our humble cotton ones. This first group was about 12, by the time the congregation was established.

In 1950, the Holy Father approved of the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity. I didn't choose this name. It came from the call. It is what we are meant to be: carriers of God's love. Since then, girls from all over the world have been joining."

(Extracts from, "My Life for the Poor", edited by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado and Janet N. Playfoot, Ballentine Books, 1985)

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Sister Nirmala: Mother Teresa's successor

MC2.jpgSISTER NIRMALA was a Hindu until the age of 24 when, inspired by Mother Teresa, she converted to Catholicism. Nirmala - the religious name she chose - is a Hindi word that suggests purity of mind and spirit. Sister Nirmala has a master's degree in political science; she was also trained as a lawyer. She headed the Sisters' missions in Panama, Europe, and Washington D.C., before succeeding Mother Teresa as leader of the Missionaries of Charity in March 1997.

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Mission

TO LABOUR AT the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor, not only in the slums but also all over the world wherever they may be, by:

- Nursing the sick and the dying destitute;

- Gathering and teaching little street children;

- Visiting and caring for beggars, leprosy patients and their children;

- Giving shelter to the abandoned and homeless;

- Caring for the unwanted, the unloved and the lonely through homes, mobile clinics, leprosy clinics and rehabilitation centres, primary schools in slum areas;

- Going out to the spiritually poorest of the poor to proclaim the Word of God by their presence and spiritual works of mercy;

- Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

TODAY there are 5,000 Missionaries of Charity Sisters, operating 735 Houses in 131 countries. 13 are Singaporean.

For vocation enquiries, contact Sister Maria Clarissa at 6251 6004, or write to her at:

Gift of Love Home

Marymount Centre

790 Thomson Road

Singapore 298142

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The Sisters in Singapore

MC3.jpgMOTHER TERESA first visited Singapore in 1976. In 1982, Archbishop Gregory Yong invited her to set up a Missionaries of Charity Home in Singapore. The first Missionaries of Charity Sisters arrived four years later. They stayed at the premises of the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, visited poor families in nearby areas, and helped the sick and destitute at the Woodlands Aged Home and Pelangi Home.

Above, inspired by Mother Teresa, the Missionaries of Charity bring the love of Christ to the poor and destitute in Singapore. Below, encouraging the residents with hope and plenty of smiles at the Gift of Love Home.

A typical day in the

life of a Sister

04:30am Arise
05:00am Morning Prayer
06:00am Meditation
07:00am Mass
07:30am Breakfast
08:00am Cleaning
09:00am Missionary duties
12:00pm Prayer
12:30pm Lunch
01:30pm Rest
02:00pm Tea
02:30pm Missionary duties
05:00pm Adoration
07:00pm Laundry
07:30pm Supper
08:00pm Recreation
09:00pm Prayer

The Sisters later set up their first home here, the Madonna Home, at an old community centre at Irving Road, Paya Lebar. In 1987, Mother Teresa revisited Singapore during which she met with President Wee Kim Wee, gave a talk to priests, and spoke to 20,000 people at a youth rally at Toa Payoh Stadium.

1987 also saw the opening of the Gift of Love Home in Punggol for the destitute and elderly of any faith; they stayed there for 11 years. In December 1998, they found a permanent place at Marymount Centre, Thomson Road, through the generosity of the Good Shepherd Sisters.

At present, there are six Sisters in Singapore comprising one Singaporean, one Bangladeshi, two Filipinas, and two Indians.

They run the Gift of Love Home which has 36 residents, many of whom were neglected by their children and referred to the home by social workers. The home has volunteers of different religions - Buddhist volunteers, for example, take Buddhist residents to the temple; the Sisters make them feel welcome and at ease.

MC4.jpgThe volunteers cook, bathe and help the residents in many other ways, and this frees the Sisters for home and hospital visits. In pairs, the Sisters visit one-room flats (bringing along dry rations for the residents) Mondays to Saturdays in Ang Mo Kio, Bendemeer and Geylang. On Sundays, after Mass celebrated by the Dominican friars at the home, the Sisters visit patients at the Institute of Mental Health and other hospitals.

Related articles:

From ballroom to hospice

A Singaporean Sister at home of the dying

- View the complete list of religious orders in Singapore

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