Missionaries of Charity

Last updated

Missionaries of Charity
Missionariarum a Caritate
MotherTeresa 090.jpg
Saint Teresa, founder and patron saint of the Missionaries of Charity.
Formation1950;69 years ago (1950)
Founder Mother Teresa
TypeCentralized Religious Institute of Consecrated Life of Pontifical Right (for Women)
Headquarters54/a Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road, Kolkata 700016, India
5,287 members (2015)
Superior general
Sr. Mary Prema Pierick, M.C.
Website motherteresa.org
Sisters belonging to Missionaries of Charity in their attire of traditional white sari with blue border. Sisters of Charity.jpg
Sisters belonging to Missionaries of Charity in their attire of traditional white sari with blue border.

The Missionaries of Charity (Latin : Missionariarum a Caritate) is a Catholic (Latin Church) religious congregation established in 1950 by Mother Teresa, now known in the Catholic Church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta. In 2012 it consisted of over 4,500 religious sisters. Members of the order designate their affiliation using the order's initials, "M.C." A member of the congregation must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and the fourth vow, to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor." [1] Today, the order consists of both contemplative and active branches in several countries.


Missionaries care for those who include refugees, former 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 and run soup kitchens as well as other services according to the community needs. These services are provided, without charge, to people regardless of their religion or social status.


Missionaries of Charity's Mother House (Headquarters) in Kolkata Missionaries of Charity Mother House.jpg
Missionaries of Charity's Mother House (Headquarters) in Kolkata

On October 7, 1950, [2] Mother Teresa and the small community formed by her former pupils was labeled as the Diocesan Congregation of the Calcutta Diocese, and thus received the permission from the Diocese of Calcutta to identify as a Catholic organization. Their mission was to care for (in Mother Teresa's words) "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone."[ citation needed ] It began as a small community with 12 members in Calcutta (now Kolkata), and today it has over 4,500 Sisters running orphanages, home for those dying of AIDS, charity centres worldwide, and caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless and victims of floods, epidemics and famine in Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America, Europe and Australia. They have 19 homes in Kolkata (Calcutta) alone which include homes for women, orphaned children, and homes for the dying, and for those dying of AIDS; a school for street children, and a leper colony.

In 1963, Brother Andrew (formerly Ian Travers-Ballan) founded the Missionary Brothers of Charity in Australia along with Mother Teresa. [3]

In 1965, by granting a Decree of Praise, Pope Paul VI granted Mother Teresa's request to expand her congregation to other countries. The Congregation started to grow rapidly, with new homes opening all over the globe. The congregation's first house outside India was in Venezuela, and others followed in Rome and Tanzania, and eventually in many countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe, including Albania.

In 1979 the Contemplative branch of the Brothers was added and in 1984 a priest branch, the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, [4] was founded by Mother Teresa with Fr. Joseph Langford, combining the vocation of the Missionaries of Charity with the Ministerial Priesthood. As with the Sisters, the Fathers live a very simple lifestyle without television, radios or items of convenience. They neither smoke nor drink alcohol and beg for their food. They make a visit to their families every five years but do not take annual holidays. [5] Lay Catholics and non-Catholics constitute the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa, the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, and the Lay Missionaries of Charity.

The first home of the Missionaries of Charity in the United States was established in the South Bronx, New York. In the USA, the Missionaries of Charity are affiliated with the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, a body of female religious, representing 20% of American nuns. They are identified by the wearing of religious habits, and loyalty to church teaching. By 1996, the organisation was operating 517 missions in more than 100 countries. [6]

In 1990, Mother Teresa asked to resign as head of the Missionaries, but was soon voted back in as Superior General. On March 13, 1997, six months before Mother Teresa's death, Sister Mary Nirmala Joshi was selected the new Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity. Sister Mary Prema was elected to succeed Sister Nirmala during a general chapter held in Kolkata in April 2009. [7]

The quality of care offered to terminally ill patients in the Home for the Dying in Calcutta was the subject of discussion in the mid-1990s. Some British observers, on the basis of short visits, drew unfavourable comparisons with the standard of care available in hospices in the United Kingdom. Remarks made by Dr. Robin Fox relative to the lack of full-time medically-trained personnel and the absence of strong analgesics were published in a brief memoir in an issue of The Lancet in 1994. These remarks were criticised in a later issue of The Lancet on the ground that they failed to take account of Indian conditions, specifically the fact that government regulations effectively precluded the use of morphine outside large hospitals. [8]

Violence against missionaries

In July 1998 in Al Hudaydah, Yemen, three Missionaries of Charity, two Indians and a Filipina, were shot and killed as they left a hospital. [9]

In March 2016 in Aden, Yemen, sixteen people were shot and killed in a home for the elderly operated by the Missionaries of Charity. Among the dead were four missionary sisters: Sisters Marguerite and Reginette from Rwanda, Sister Anselm from India and Sister Judit from Kenya. According to Bishop Paul Hinder of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, their superior escaped harm by hiding. Bishop Hinder described the attack as "religiously-motivated". A Salesian Syro-Malabar priest who was living at the facility, Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil of Bangalore, India, was taken prisoner by the attackers. [10]

On Good Friday, March 25, 2016, several media outlets reported that Fr. Uzhunnalil was crucified by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. However, Bishop Hinder indicated he had strong indications that the priest was alive and still being held by his captors. [11] In early September 2017 Fr. Uzhunnalil was rescued after 18 months in captivity, and first sent to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis. [12]

Becoming a Missionary of Charity

It takes nine years to become a full-fledged Missionary of Charity. An initial short-term "come-and-see" period is available. Those considered possible candidates by the Congregation may enter Aspirancy, focused on learning English (which is the community language) for those who are not from English-speaking countries and religious studies. It is followed by Postulancy (introduction into the study of Scripture, the Constitutions of the Society, Church history, and theology). If found suitable, they enter the Novitiate, the beginning of the religious life. Novices wear white cotton habits with a girdle, and white saris without the three blue stripes. In the first year (called canonical), they undertake more religious study and learn about life as a Missionary of Charity, the second year is more focused on practical training for the mission life. After two years, they take temporary vows for one year, which are renewed annually, for five years in total. They also receive the blue striped sari of the Congregation, and a metal crucifix. In the sixth year, they travel to Rome, Kolkata or Washington D.C. for "Tertianship", further religious study, at the end of which they make their final profession.

Material goods

A sister's few possessions include: three saris (one to wear, one to wash, one to mend), [13] two or three cotton habits, a girdle, a pair of sandals, a crucifix, and a rosary. They also have a plate, a set of cutlery, a cloth napkin, a canvas bag, and a prayer book. In cold countries, nuns may own a cardigan and other articles suited to the local climate such as a coat, scarf, and closed shoes.


Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in Kolkata Nirmal Hriday, Calcutta.jpg
Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in Kolkata

A British former volunteer at the Home, Robin Fox (now editor of the British medical journal The Lancet ) objected that syringes were rinsed in cold water and reused; that inmates were given cold baths; and that aspirin was administered to people with terminal cancer. [14] Fox also noted, however, that the residents were "eating heartily and doing well", and that the sisters and volunteers focused on cleanliness, tending wounds and sores, and providing loving kindness. [15] The use of aspirin to relieve mild pain in those suffering terminal cancer remains standard practice worldwide as approved by the WHO. [16] However, it is inappropriate to do so for stronger pain, or if the pain persists as is common for cancer patients, especially in later stages. [17] The life-span of a sterilizable needle and syringe was estimated in 1995 to be between 50 and 200 injections depending on the hardness of local water. [18] Nonetheless, the controversy remains due to the charities not sterilizing needles and failing to make proper diagnoses, as put by Dr. Jack Preger, "If one wants to give love, understanding and care, one uses sterile needles". [19]

In 2018 all child care homes in India run by the Missionaries of Charity were inspected by the Ministry of Women and Child Development following allegations that two staff members at a Jharkhand home sold babies for adoption. A nun and a social worker employed there were arrested. Sister Konsalia Balsa and social worker Anima Indwar were accused of having already sold three babies from the home, which provides shelter for pregnant, unmarried women, and of trying to sell a boy baby for roughly £1325. [20] The Missionaries of Charity had discontinued its participation in adoption services in India three years earlier over religious objections to the country's new adoption rules. [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Mother Teresa Roman Catholic saint of Albanian origin

Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu, commonly known as Mother Teresa and honoured in the Catholic Church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary. She was born in Skopje, then part of the Kosovo Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire. After living in Skopje for eighteen years, she moved to Ireland and then to India, where she lived for most of her life.

The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose members are commonly known as the Loreto Sisters, is a Roman Catholic religious congregation of women dedicated to education founded in Saint-Omer by an Englishwoman, Mary Ward, in 1609. The congregation takes its name from the Marian shrine at Loreto in Italy where Ward used to pray. Ward was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 December 2009. The Loreto Sisters use the initials I.B.V.M. after their names.

Criticism of Mother Teresa Summary of criticisms of Mother Teresas charity, medical facilities and associations with public figures

The work of Catholic nun and missionary Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, commonly known as Mother Teresa, received mixed reactions from prominent people, governments and organizations. Her practices and those of the Missionaries of Charity, the order which she founded, were subject to numerous controversies. These include objections to the quality of medical care which they provided, suggestions that some deathbed baptisms constituted forced conversion, and alleged links to colonialism and racism. Mother Teresa received extensive media coverage, and some critics suggest that the Church used her image to promote Catholicism and divert the public's attention from ecclesiastical scandals.

Kalighat Home for the Dying building in India

Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart is a hospice for the sick, destitute and the dying established by St. Mother Teresa in Kalighat, Kolkata, India. Before Mother Teresa sought permission to use it, the building was an old abandoned Hindu temple to the goddess Kali, the Hindu goddess of time and change. It was founded by St. Mother Teresa on her 42nd birthday in 1952, two years after she established Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata.

Grey Nuns Female Roman Catholic religious congregation

The Grey Nuns is the name commonly given to 6 distinct Roman Catholic religious communities of women, which trace their origins to the original foundation, of the Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général, in Montréal. The Sisters of Charity of Montreal, formerly called The Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général of Montreal and more commonly known as the Grey Nuns of Montreal, is a Canadian religious institute of Roman Catholic religious sisters, founded in 1737 by Saint Marguerite d'Youville, a young widow.

Ascensión Nicol y Goñi Religious Sister & Foundress

The Blessed María Ascensión Nicol y Goñi, O.P., was a Spanish Roman Catholic religious sister of the Third Order of St. Dominic. She co-founded and was the first Prioress General of the Congregation of Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary, which she helped to found in Peru.

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth organization

The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCN) is a Roman Catholic order of nuns. It was founded in 1812 near Bardstown, Kentucky when three young women responded to Bishop John Baptist Mary David's call for assistance in ministering to the needs of the people of the area.

Nirmala Joshi Second Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity

Maria Nirmala Joshi, M.C., better known as Sister Nirmala, was a Catholic Religious Sister who succeeded Nobel laureate Mother Teresa as the head of her Missionaries of Charity and expanded the movement overseas. After taking over the charity following Mother Teresa’s death in 1997, Nirmala expanded the organisation’s reach to 134 countries by opening centres in nations such as Afghanistan, Israel and Thailand.

Catholic Church in Yemen

The Catholic Church in Yemen is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome. There are three thousand Catholics and four parishes in the country, which forms part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Southern Arabia which also includes several other countries in the Arabian peninsula. Most Catholics are temporary foreign workers living in the country with their families.

The Third Order of Saint Francis, is a third order in the Franciscan order. The preaching of Francis of Assisi, as well as his example, exercised such an attraction on people that many married men and women wanted to join the First Order (friars) or the Second Order (nuns), but this being incompatible with their state of life, Francis found a middle way and in 1221 gave them a rule according to the Franciscan charism. Those following this rule became members of the Franciscan Third Order, sometimes called tertiaries. It includes religious congregations of men and women, known as Third Order Regulars; and fraternities of men and women, Third Order Seculars. The latter do not wear a religious habit, take vows, or live in community. However, they do gather together in community on a regular basis. "They make profession to live out the Gospel life and commit themselves to that living out the Gospel according to the example of Francis."

Order of Our Lady of Charity organization

The Order of Our Lady of Charity is a Roman Catholic monastic order, founded in 1641 by Saint John Eudes, at Caen, France.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Khulna is a Latin suffragan diocese in the Ecclesiastical province of Chittagong, one of two provinces in Bangladesh. However it remains dependent on the missionary Roman Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Anna Maria Dengel Austrian doctor, Religious Sister and foundress

Mother Anna Maria Dengel, S.C.M.M., was an Austrian physician, Religious Sister and missionary. She was the founder of the Medical Mission Sisters, which was among the first congregations of Religious Sisters authorized by the Roman Catholic Church to provide full medical care to the poor and needy in the overseas missions.

Sister Mary Prema Pierick, M.C., is the current Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity of Calcutta, India, the religious institute founded by the Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Mother Bridget Sequeira, F.M.C.K., was a Franciscan Religious Sister who founded the Franciscan Missionaries of Christ the King, a missionary religious congregation for women, in Karachi, Pakistan. It is the only Catholic religious institute for women to have been founded for women in that nation. It is currently headquartered in Goa, India.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is a 2003 biographical television film based on the life of Mother Teresa, the founder of the Missionaries of Charity religious institute. The film stars Olivia Hussey in the title role and received a CAMIE award in 2007. The film was originally produced as the Italian television miniseries Madre Teresa.

The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, a Roman Catholic religious congregation of women, have served health, education and social service needs in the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, since 1851.

The Medical Missionaries of Mary are a religious institute of the Catholic Church dedicated to providing health care to the underdeveloped regions of the world. They follow a Benedictine spirituality, with its focus on life in community, shared prayer and hospitality.

Missionaries of Charity attack in Aden Mass murder in Aden, Yemen

The Missionaries of Charity attack in Aden was a mass murder crime committed by unknown gunmen inside a home for older people in Aden, Yemen on 4 March 2016.

Tom Uzhunnalil

Tom Uzhunnalil SDB is an Indian Catholic priest who is a Salesian of Don Bosco and a member of Missionaries of Charity. He was kidnapped in March 2016 and held by terrorists in Yemen, before being released in September 2017 with the intervention of Oman and the Catholic Church.


  1. Muggeridge (1971) chapter 3, Mother Teresa Speaks, pp. 105, 113.
  2. "Mother Teresa of Calcutta". vatican.va. Vatican.
  3. "Australian Founder of Missionary Brothers of Charity Dies". Cathnews.acu.edu.au. Catholic Online. 13 October 2000. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
  4. "Mother Teresa – Biography". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  5. Missionaries of Charity Fathers website: Who we are
  6. "About the Missionaries of Charity", Missionaries of Charity
  7. "German Elected to Lead Missionaries of Charity". Zenit News Agency. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
  8. Robin Fox. "Mother Theresa's care for the dying". The Lancet . 344 (8925): 807–808. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(94)92353-1.; cf. "Mother Teresa's care for the dying," letters from David Jeffrey, Joseph O'Neill and Gilly Burns, The Lancet 344 (8929): 1098
  9. "Southern Arabia bishop: MC nuns killed for religious motives". Vatican Radio. 5 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016. In July 1998, a gunman shot and killed three Missionaries of Charity, as they left a hospital in the city of Al Hudaydah. Two of them were Indians while the third was a Filipina.
  10. "Southern Arabia bishop: MC nuns killed for religious motives". en.radiovaticana.va. Vatican Radio. 5 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016. According to Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia that has jurisdiction over Yemen, the massacre of 16 people by gunmen at the old people’s home run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden is 'religiously-motivated'... The nun victims are Sisters Marguerite and Reginette from Rwanda, Anselm from India and Judit from Kenya. The superior survived finding a hiding place, Bishop Hinder said, adding now she is in a safe place... The attackers also seized Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian Salesian missionary from Bangalore Province, who lived at the facility.
  11. Rezac, Mary (28 March 2016). "There is no confirmation that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified on Good Friday". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 29 March 2016. Bishop Paul Hinder of Southern Arabia (a region in Saudi Arabia, the country just north of Yemen where Fr. Uzhunnalil was kidnapped), told CNA on Monday that he has 'strong indications that Fr. Tom is still alive in the hands of the kidnappers,' but could not give further information in order to protect the life of the priest.
  12. "Fr. Tom to Pope Francis: I offered my suffering for you and the Church". Catholic News Agency.
  13. Thomas, Prince Mathews. "Pointing Fingers At Mother Teresa's Heirs". Forbes. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  14. Fox, Robin (1994). "Mother Teresa's care for the dying". The Lancet. 344 (8925): 807–808. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(94)92353-1.
  15. Loudon, Mary (6 January 1996). "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, Book Review", BMJ vol. 312, no. 7022, 6 January 1996, pp.64–5. Retrieved December 30, 2011. She claimed in her review that Fox had seen those practices; but he made no reference to them in his article
  16. WHO's cancer pain ladder for adults, accessed 20 February 2014
  17. "WHO | WHO's cancer pain ladder for adults". www.who.int. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  18. B. Aylward; J. Lloyd; M. Zafran; R. McNair-Scott; P. Evans (1995). "Reducing the risk of unsafe injections in immunization programmes: financial and operational implications of various injection technologies". Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 73 (4): 531–540., at p. 534
  19. Krishnan, Madhuvanti S. "Healing touch". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  20. Safi, Michael (17 July 2018). "All Mother Teresa homes inspected amid baby-selling scandal". the Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  21. McCarthy, Julie. "Mother Teresa's Missionaries Of Charity Says No More Adoptions In India", NPR, October 9, 2015

Further reading