Earlier this week, we arranged to visit a Mother Teresa home in Fort Kochi. Flash backs to my days volunteering at Mother Teresa’s homes in Kathmandu and Kolkata came to mind throughout the visit. My time there was very formative and Louise and I wanted to provide the girls with opportunities to get a glimpse into the fulfillment that the MC Sisters derive from serving the poor and marginalized.
Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was an Albanian Roman Catholic religious sister and missionary. She established the congregation called the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. Today, the Missionaries of Charity (MC) sisters number more than 4,500 and are located in cities all over the world. In addition to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, they take a fourth vow, which is to give ‘wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor’.
No photography was allowed at the house we visited. Here is a shot from motherteresa.org:
The Wikipedia entry summarizes it well. MC sisters ‘care for those who include refugees, ex-prostitutes, the mentally ill, sick children, abandoned children, lepers, people with AIDS, the aged, and convalescent. They have schools run by volunteers to educate street children, they run soup kitchens, and many other services as per the communities’ needs. They have 19 homes in Kolkata (Calcutta) alone which include homes for women, for orphaned children, and for the dying; an AIDS hospice; a school for street children; and a leper colony. These services are provided, without charge, to people regardless of their religion or social caste’.
The MC sisters’ work is well known for meeting the needs of people who have no other options. They are utterly dedicated to their cause and the social value that they create. Mother Teresa was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and was beatified in 2003.
The MC sisters run a number of homes in Kerala, including a home in Fort Kochi for the differently-abled. The residence supports 39 girls and women. All have been abandoned by their families and have come to the home through Kerala’s social services. Since the residents have been abandoned, there is no record of their age. Some are young girls and staff estimates that others are in their 30s. The home is on a campus that includes dormitories, therapy rooms, kitchens, a playground and rooms for training (local women from the community can learn how to operate sewing machines, for example). The home is clean and professionally run.
One of the sisters (Sister Concepta), took us on a tour. We met the girls and women who live there and learned about their day-to-day activities. Many of the residents who we met are non-ambulatory and all have an intellectual disability. We met one girl who, because of the therapy program, was able to sit up in bed. At one point an auto rickshaw rolled in and seven kids who returned from a school program spilled out.
Concepta told us a bit about herself. She has been a Missionary of Charity sister for 40 years and has worked in Kerala, Rome, England and the New York. While very matter-of-fact in her manner, one could also see that she is very caring with the residents of the home. She said that in “every place it’s the same”: The MC sisters offer programs to meet the needs of the people they work with.
The girls stayed close to us throughout and asked Concepta a lot of questions.