The Missionaries of Charity Fathers is the community of priests Mother Teresa founded in 1984. And therein lies a tale.
“Mother Teresa got sick in Rome in 1983. She was hospitalized,” Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postulator for Mother Teresa's sainthood cause, told the Register.
A priest “went to visit her on the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He asked her again about starting a priestly order for the Missionaries of Charity. Usually, she did not even want to discuss it because the Vatican had told her to wait.”
But not that day. She said, “Yes, now is the time. But I want the Catholic Church to tell me this.”
“This shows you her way of discerning,” said Father Kolodiejchuk. “She wanted the Church to say Yes. She wanted the Holy Father to say Yes, which he did. The Missionary of Charity Fathers were started in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1984.”
The other branches of the Missionaries of Charity are the Active Sisters, founded in 1950; the Active Brothers, founded in 1965; the Contemplative Sisters; founded in 1976, and the Contemplative Brothers, founded in 1977.
The Missionaries Fathers is a “tiny seed of hope that is growing,” says Father Robert Conroy, the superior general.
Compared to the branch of Sisters, who have some 4,500 members in 132 countries, the Missionaries Fathers are a small and virtually unnoticed group. There are 26 priests and five deacons working in seven countries, including the headquarters in Tijuana, Mexico. More than a dozen seminarians are studying in Rome and elsewhere for the order.
Yet, Father Conroy says, numbers and influence have never been a goal for the MC Fathers. “Because we started with only two priests, and have been insistent on quality of formation, we have not grown quickly,” he said. “But I think this has been wise because we have put down firm roots and the men we have are the best.”
Father Conroy, who was born in Minneapolis and grew up in Kansas City, Kan., was elected superior last summer in a meeting of 25 Missionaries of Charity priests. For the past two years he had lived in a remote mountain region of Guatemala, where most of the residents speak a language not related to Spanish. “I was just starting to know the native language,” said Father Conroy, who is now based in Tijuana.
His job as superior, he says, is “ensuring that our little branch of the society is living out the spirituality of the Missionaries of Charity. That means guarding the gift, example and spiritual riches we have inherited from Mother Teresa.”
Father Conroy's vocation was guided by Mother Teresa. While studying for the priesthood in Rome as a seminarian with the Archdiocese of Kansas City, he met Mother Teresa and her sisters. Realizing that he was called to work with “the poorest of the poor,” he put aside his studies to join the MC Fathers six months before he was to be ordained a deacon. After serving as a novice with the order, he continued theology studies and was ordained a priest in 1989.
Mother Teresa “was a large influence in my vocation,” he said. “To me, she had the greatest credibility because of her service to the poor. Like St. Francis of Assisi, she gave her life for them, lived among them, and loved them.”
He added, “The beatification, I think, will make clear the logic of her service to the poor. Jesus in the Eucharist, leads us to Jesus in the poor. Jesus is hidden in the Eucharist and he is hidden in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.”