St. Mother Teresa anniversary challenges one to give of ourselves Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
st teresa
CNS photo/KNA)

September 5 will mark the celebration of St. Mother Teresa’s feast day. She died on September 5, 1997, so it has been 20 years since her death. Two decades later, we celebrate her as a saint of Christ’s Church and draw inspiration from her life committed to serving Christ and His people, especially the poor and suffering.

Mother Teresa was beatified on October 19, 2003, by Pope Saint John Paul II, and Pope Francis canonized her on September 4, 2016.

Mother Teresa’s life

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia, the youngest of three children. She attended a youth group called Sodality, run by a Jesuit priest at her parish, and her involvement opened her to the call of service as a missionary Sister.

She joined the Sisters of Loretto at age 17 and was sent to Calcutta, India, where she taught at a high school.

She contracted tuberculosis and was sent to rest in Darjeeling. It was on the train to Darjeeling that she received her calling — what she called “an order” from God — to leave the convent and work and live among the poor.

At this point, she did not know that she was destined to found an order of nuns, or even exactly where she was to serve. “I knew where I belonged, but I did not know how to get there,” she said, recalling the moment on the train.

Fulfilling her calling

Confirmation of the calling came when the Vatican granted her permission to leave the Sisters of Loretto and fulfill her calling under the archbishop of Calcutta.

She started working in the slums, teaching poor children and treating the sick in their homes. She was joined a year later by some of her former students. Together, they took in men, women, and children who were dying in the gutters along the streets and cared for them.

In 1950, the Missionaries of Charity was born as a congregation of the Diocese of Calcutta. In 1952, the government granted them a house from which to continue their service among Calcutta’s forgotten.

Helping the poorest of the poor

The congregation quickly grew from a single house for the dying and unwanted to nearly 500 houses around the world. Mother Teresa set up homes for AIDS patients, prostitutes, battered women, and orphanages for poor children.

She often said that the poorest of the poor were those who had no one to care for them and no one who knew them. She often remarked with sadness about the millions of souls in the developed world whose spiritual poverty and loneliness were such a cause of suffering.

She was a fierce defender of the unborn saying, “If you hear of some woman who does not want to keep her child and wants to have an abortion, try to persuade her to bring him to me. I will love that child, seeing in him the sign of God’s love.”

Mother Teresa once said, “A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”

She also said, “Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”

She practiced the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy throughout her life.

Fed by the Eucharist

Mother Teresa started her day at Mass, where she said receiving Christ in the Eucharist gave her the strength to go out to the streets where she saw Christ in the faces of the poor.

She said, “As soon as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, let us go in haste to give Him to our sisters, to our poor, to the sick, to the dying, to the lepers, to the unwanted, and the unloved. By this we make Jesus present in the world today.”

Mother Teresa gave the world a model for living out both the Corporal and Spiritual Work of Mercy in her own community. By first seeing Christ in the Eucharist and then serving Him in those we encounter in the world around us, she encouraged everyone, no matter where they lived, to love the person right in front of them.

There was no need to travel to Calcutta or faraway places to fulfill the works of mercy. She said, “Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

Works of Mercy in Diocese of Madison

Here in the Diocese of Madison, there are many ways for Catholics to be engaged in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. At this time, the 20th anniversary of her death and her feast day, consider an opportunity to become engaged in the Works of Mercy here in south-central Wisconsin.

For families wondering how they can honor St. Mother Teresa’s feast day, remember she said, “Love begins at home. And it’s not how much we do . . . but how much love we put into the action.” Simple acts of kindness between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, neighbors, and classmates are important starting points.

If you are looking to get out of your comfort zone and encounter Christ in the streets like Mother Teresa did following daily Mass, consider getting involved with your parish’s outreach programs or other community efforts.

Saint Mother Teresa Mercy Endowment Fund

The Saint Mother Teresa Mercy Endowment Fund was established last year through The Catholic Diocese of Madison Foundation in honor of Mother Teresa’s canonization and the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The fund provides ongoing financial support to ministries performing the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy in the Diocese of Madison.

This year a portion of the fund’s distribution will support The Beacon, a homeless day resource center opening in Madison this fall being operated by Catholic Charities.

Jackson Fonder, CEO of Catholic Charities of Madison, shared, “We are so grateful for the support of The Catholic Diocese of Madison Foundation. With their help and the direction of Bishop Morlino, they were the first community member to offer assistance to care for our homeless brothers and sisters.”

As the Saint Mother Teresa Mercy Endowment Fund grows, so does the amount available for distribution to ministries around the diocese performing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. In celebration of St. Mother Teresa’s feast day, consider a gift to this important fund.

Give $20 or more

A gift of $20 or more, on this the 20th anniversary of her death, can make a great difference if we all respond generously to help those near us who are most in need.

Gifts can be mailed using the envelope included in this edition of the Catholic Herald or online at

If you have questions or have an interest in learning more about the fund, call The Catholic Diocese of Madison Foundation, Inc. at 608-821-3048 or visit www.diocese

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