In the heart of the bustling city of Calcutta, in East India, stands this sober grey-coloured building, "Mother House.” It’s here that Mother Teresa of Calcutta sowed the seeds of the Missionaries of Charity in February 1953.
It is here that Mother Teresa lived, prayed and worked till she died in 1997. It is here where her body is laid to rest in a large, yet, inconspicuous tomb, that is today venerated by millions of faithful each year.
Mother Teresa’s little room is just a feet away with a few of her possessions inside.
It was in this humble dwelling and on this bed that Mother Teresa died at 9.30 p.m. on September 5, 1997.
The sisters present at her bedside said that in her last moments she looked intensely at the cross and the crown of thorns, which are beneath the framed picture of the Holy face of Jesus.
Children’s ward at Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, Calcutta
"For me, it was inspiring, Mother’s presence and holiness is there. One thing I experience, was that even early in the morning, before us, Mother would be in the chapel for prayer. To start that morning prayer, Mother will be present.”
"Nirmal Hriday," which means Home for the Pure Heart, is a hospice for the sick, destitute and the dying and was the first house that Mother Teresa established in 1952. Today, it houses over 100 terminally ill inmates.
Spokesperson Mothers of Charity
"She said, ‘How come Sunita that you don’t visit the home for the dying?’ So I told her, ‘Mother, I don’t think I have the guts and I think I woudn’t be able to face them. So she said, ‘No, I will take you personally.’ She took me personally and prepared me on the way and she said, ‘If you walk in with a smile, you’ll see that the inmates will smile at you.’ And that’s what happened.”
Despite receiving recognition all over the world, Mother Teresa faced several challenges when she began her mission.
CARDINAL OSWALD GRACIAS
Archbishop of Bombay (India)
"She stood up in her own simple way and she says, 'Sir, I have not studied economics and finance, all I know is the Bible and in the Bible, Jesus has said, ‘The Father in heaven cares for the birds of the air, the father in heaven knows even the hairs on your head, I’m sure the Father in heaven cares for my poor people and just on that basis I go ahead and do work and everything worked well, I never had difficulty'"
In 1955, she established ‘Nirmala Sishu Bhavan,’ or the Children’s Home, for abandoned street children just 500 meters away from the Mother house. Moved by her experience as a volunteer, Sr Joan of Arc, joined Mother’s Teresa congregation. Now she cares for terminally ill children.
SISTER JOAN OF ARC
Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, Calcutta
"She was old at that time and we were not sure how long she would have with us, but she never counted the cost. She had the type of disposition to be generous to the others."
For many in India their ‘Maa,’ which means ‘Mother’ in Hindi, was always a saint. But now that the Saint of the Gutters is being officially canonized by the Church, one cannot help but recall Mother Teresa's words when she said, "I will give the Church saints.”
Carlyle Laurie - MB