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Mother Teresa of Calcutta – ‘An Icon of Mercy’

Many people ask what makes a saint? On Sunday in St. Peter’s Square in Rome the eyes of the world will focus on the life and example of an 87 year old Albanian native Missionary of Charity whom the Church, in canonising her, holds up an ‘icon of mercy’. In the eyes of many, Mother Teresa was a Saint from the work she did, caring for the broken, the wounded, the abandoned, the forgotten. What perhaps many of us fail to realise is that Mother Teresa was twenty years a Loreto Sister, having entered the novitiate in Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham. In recent days, I invited Sr. Eileen Linehan IBVM, a Loreto Sister who works in Carlow to share what Sunday means to her and to the wider Loreto family. Her thoughts follow:

This is a very special occasion for us Loreto’s, as we celebrate the sainthood of one who journeyed with us for 20 years as a Loreto Sister.

Mother Teresa began her religious life training in Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham on 12th Oct 1928. Shortly afterwards she set sail for India with two other postulants. She entered the Novitiate in Loreto Darjeeling and after her Profession of Vows was missioned to Loreto Convent Entally (in Calcutta) where she taught Catechism and Geography for many years prior to her appointment as Principal there. On a train journey to Darjeeling for her annual retreat in September 1946, Mother Teresa heard God’s call to go out into the slums of Calcutta to serve him in the poorest of the poor. She wrote about this to Mother Gertrude Kennedy, the Superior General in Rathfarnham, who respected her request and supported her in her search for God’s call to this new mission. So having received the necessary permissions from her Superiors and the Archbishop of Calcutta, Mother Teresa answered this ‘second call’ to go out into the slums of Calcutta, to live among and serve the poorest of the poor.

All through her life Mother Teresa’s ties and friendship with Loreto remained strong, and she was personally known to many of our Sisters, especially in India. She frequently visited Loreto communities, particularly in Calcutta, and many of the orphaned babies she had rescued ended up going to school in Loreto Entally where Mother Teresa herself had taught! We have very happy memories of Mother Teresa’s visit to Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham in 1993.

Those who knew Mother Teresa during her years in Loreto found her a cheerful, happy companion with a quick sense of humour. She was energetic, resourceful and hard-working, but above all she was a woman of deep faith and prayer.

On the150th anniversary of Loreto’s foundation in India, Mother Teresa wrote that “Although now I am a Missionary of Charity, deep down that Loreto joy is still there. Nothing can separate me from the love and gratitude I have for Loreto; what I have received will never be forgotten.”

We are honoured that Mother Teresa requested to be buried from our convent Chapel in Calcutta when she departed this earth on 5th September 1997. To quote Sr. Noelle Corscadden, Loreto Institute Leader, “her life challenges each of us to live with our eyes and our hearts fixed on those who are small in our society, those whom society rejects and forgets.”

We thank God for the gift of Mother Teresa to the Church and to the world. We rejoice with her Missionaries of Charity on the occasion of her canonisation and we pray that her witness and the great legacy she has left us will continue to bear fruit in years to come”.

In the title of Malcolm Muggeridge’s beautiful documentary film ‘Something Beautiful for God’, that something beautiful is the challenge we all live with, to serve, like Saint Teresa of Calcutta, the poorest of the poor. Her blue-striped white cotton sari became a symbol of dedication to the destitute. May we become that symbol in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

St. Brigid, pray for us.

St. Conleth, pray for us,

St. Laserian, pray for us.

Bishop Denis