Missionaries of Mother Teresa
A reflection on the situation of the mission in India and its difficulties.
Christian missionaries in India are increasingly suffering persecution of various kinds, accused of proselytizing through their charities, schools in more rural areas, hospitals and leper colonies.
Archbishop Henry D’Souza, Archbishop Emeritus of Calcutta, reflects on the situation of the mission in India and its difficulties, recalling the example of Mother Teresa, with whom he worked for 35 years and for whom since 1997 he has been postulator for the cause of canonization. What distinguishes the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, says the Archbishop, is love. Below an interview with Msgr. Henry D’Souza.
Excellency, why did Mother Teresa not encounter problems in her missionary work?
Mother Teresa had one overriding thought. “Where love is ,there is God”. in her attempt to respond to the call “Be my light” she brought love. Love God, love your neighbour, especially the poorest of the poor. Love needs to be the mark in all our missionary efforts. Many times we hear criticism about our institutions and our social and charitable works- they have become “institutionalized”.
Good works without love may attract outwardly, because of their academic excellence, or professional quality, and their ability to achieve. But this is not real evangelization.
On the other hand, when our work is with the poor and rural sections of people, our good works may be the cause for changing the social structures. That could be threatening to the given society.
Mother Teresa was able to avoid the two issues through her love. In fact her ministry, life and example have changed society- society at large has become more conscious of the poor and the need to help them achieve a better standard of life.
Perhaps love is the key to meet the many suspicions which face Christian institutions, and Christian missionaries. Even when we suffer persecutions, we need to offer love.
Mother Teresa’s Mission was through her multifaceted awareness of mission work. What are your reflections, changes and challenges that have occurred as a result of its impact?
Many were the consequences of the mission of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was once told that she should not be concerned about actual poverty. She should address the causes of poverty. Her reply was straight forward, “I only understand the reality. I leave it to others to find the causes.” But in addressing the reality, whether it was actual material poverty or loneliness or lack of love, she drew sharp attention to the causes of poverty.
Even actual poverty has begun to be better understood. When this year the Rs.32/- poverty norm began to be discussed, a spokesperson said, “Poverty is not only about food. It has also to be concerned about home, family education, health and other such realities.”
People began to want to offer more than food and shelter. The start of the physio-therapy section in the MC homes is a concrete example. Qualified people are going forward to offer assistance to the poor.
The leprosy apostolate of Mother Teresa is another good example. Leprosy patients were often branded as untouchables and forced to live in distressing hovels outside the town. Mother Teresa began Shantinagar in Bengal. It is now both a home for leprosy patients and a rehabilitation centre.
Many leprosy patients have their own homes also, and are employed in self-help works. The leprosy colony at Titagarh is another example of the transforming effect to such afflicted persons. The Cuttack leprosy colony and the Puri leprosy colony in Orrisa have been in existence for centuries. They have been radically transformed after the MC Sisters and Brothers began to get involved in there through Fr. Bill Petrie, CSSH and Marianus Zelezek, SVD.
Your reflections on Mother Teresa’s mission to proclaim Christ and spread the Gospel – Mother’s spirit of evangelization.
The message of Mother Teresa is simple. One does not need to do extraordinary things. She wanted her Sisters to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. Her message goes out very strongly in two events narrated by her.”