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Catholic Missionaries in India Inspired by Mother Teresa


The publication this week of a book containing the personal letters of Mother Teresa has sparked renewed interest in the late Nobel Peace prizewinner who died 10 years ago Wednesday, September 5th. The letters in Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the 'Saint of Calcutta show that the revered Roman Catholic nun suffered a crisis of faith for nearly half of her life. That revelation surprises, but also inspires, members of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, India where Mother Teresa began her efforts to help the poor. Anya Ardayeva reports from Kolkata.

What used to be known as Mother Teresa's first love, Kalighat, is a home for the dying and destitute. She established it in 1952 to provide the poorest people in Kolkata a home where they could die -- or get well -- in peace.

The nuns say their work will not be affected by the publication of the letters, just like Mother Teresa's work was not affected by her inner search for God.

Sister Glenda knew Mother Teresa for many years. "We saw that in the newspaper. But in everyone's life, there will be some crisis. And Mother also had that crisis,” she recalls. “But we did not experience her crisis, because always it was hidden. She always encouraged us that God is helping us, God is with us."

In the ten years since Mother Teresa's death, Missionaries of Charity has continued to expand, adding 66 new homes in more than a dozen countries, including Israel, Algeria, Bosnia, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan. Today there are a total of 757 missions in 134 countries with more than 4800 nuns from all over the world.

And the Vatican is moving to formally recognize Mother Teresa as a saint, but that is proving to be a tricky and lengthy process. Although the Vatican has recognized the healing of a tumor in an Indian woman as one miracle, a second miracle must be recognized before Mother Teresa can be canonized.

Sister Nirmala took the lead of the Missionaries of Charity six months before Mother Teresa died. "For the whole church, this is official recognition, once she becomes a saint, this official declaration that mother is a saint who can intercept for all of us, and we can pray to her and also she is a model, you know, we can follow her example in becoming better people and saints."

Mother Teresa's critics say she might have been more effective had she tackled the issues surrounding the root causes of poverty. But people who knew Mother Teresa say her mission of caring and love was felt throughout the world.

Ashis Chakraborty is the editor-in-chief of "The Telegraph" newspaper in Kolkata. "She made people identify with poverty, do something about poverty."

Chakraborty also says Mother Teresa's work exceeded the borders of a religious mission. "Ten years down the line that I think is her greatest legacy. Ask any people on the Kolkata streets whether they are rich or poor or just happen to know about her, they'll know about Mother Teresa, Missionaries of Charity."

And 10 years after her death, her mission continues, and people of different religions continue coming to the homes that she established. Many of them still have no other place to go.

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