Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: Love Never Ends
BRONX, N.Y. — On a chilly early-October morning, the needy converge on a warm spot in the South Bronx.
They come for food and loving care from the Missionaries of Charity, who have run a soup kitchen on East 146th Street six mornings a week for more than 15 years.
The sisters, with bare feet and wearing the distinctive white-and-blue saris of their order, greet each man and woman who comes through the door of Queen of Peace Home with a smile and a kind word. For some it is the only positive human contact they will have that day in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood.
“What the sisters do is beautiful,” says one patron who would not give his name, as he climbed the steps of the home. “But a lot of people don't appreciate it.”
Shortly before the Church would declare Mother Teresa “blessed” — one step before sainthood — the sisters give no indication that the honor being bestowed upon the order's foundress is changing their ways.
The only signs of the beatification are posters pasted on the doors of Queen of Peace Home and the sisters' convent around the block. They show a picture of Mother Teresa with Pope John Paul II. A handwritten sign offers a free bus ride to St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan for a Mass on Oct. 19, the day of the big event in Rome.
As they serve and scrub in the soup kitchen with a quiet joy, it is evident that the sisters are celebrating the beatification by working more diligently for the poor.
The same spirit fills the other New York homes run by the sisters, one for the poor in Harlem and another in Greenwich Village called Gift of Love for people dying of AIDS.
The three homes form a triangle of love, serving not just the poor, but anyone who comes feeling neglected or rejected. The sisters are there with Mother's love.
“Nothing has changed,” said Gene Principe, who has volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity for the past 20 years. “If anything, I'd say the sisters have become more focused since the death of Mother. She got her goal, which is heaven. They know that she is praying for them. Now her sisters are seeking the same holiness.”
Making Love Real
Sister Nirmala, Mother Teresa's successor, told the Register, “Our goal is holiness for ourselves and for the people we serve. We want to make the love of God real in our own lives and in the lives of all we come in contact with — our co-workers, volunteers, benefactors and the poorest of the poor.”
Father Antonio Morales, pastor of St. Rita's Church, down the block from the home and convent, said that the sisters serve the parish in many ways.
“They help prepare the children for the sacraments, they help us with the shelter,” he said. “They have a good spirit, and the people here love them because they do everything with great love and a true Christian spirit.”
The South Bronx neighborhood, which has seen some signs of renewal over the years, has benefited from the presence and prayers of the Missionaries of Charity, Father Morales added.
The simplest thing to say is that the sisters preach without words,” he said. “They share their love for Jesus.”
Stephen Vincent is based in Wallingford, Connecticut.
- October 19-25, 2003