On 5th September 1997, six days after Diana, Princess of Wales, died in the car crash in Paris, the world awoke to the news that Mother Teresa of Calcutta, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, had also died. Upon reflection it seems quite fitting the two women, both strong characters with a concern for the poor, and who had a fondness for one another should make that final journey to the house of the Lord together. Upon learning of the death of the princess St. Teresa (Mother) was one of the first people to send their condolences to London saying “She was very concerned for the poor. She was very anxious to do something for them, and it was beautiful. That is why she was close to me”. ‘Mother’ cherished her profound relationship with the Princess of Wales, two unlikely friends, brought together out of their profound love for the poor and the vulnerable.
Mother Teresa’s charitable work in India first became Internationally known through a documentary series that aired on the BBC in the 1960s. Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, she had a great concern for life, and her order established numerous facilities to help care for the sick and the poor. The facilities included centres for the blind, aged and disabled; and even a leper colony. Her concern for life included the life of the unborn, helping young, single mothers through the process of birth and adoption rather than see a life terminated. She was not afraid to work with the ‘Daltis’ i.e. the untouchables, the outcasts. And she knew that poverty is not always reduced to material factors, it also includes dignity and self-worth. For Mother caring for the poor also meant helping to fill a yearning for a relationship with the transcendent that also brings a sense of worth and belonging; she would also cloth the poor with human dignity.
Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work and was canonized a Saint of the Church on 4th September 2016 at the culmination of the Year of Mercy.
Upon hearing the news of her death, Cardinal Basil Hume appeared again on BBC news saying “It’s quite extraordinary that Mother Teresa has followed Princess Diana so soon. After all she very much liked Diana, and Diana very much liked her …. two of the most loved women in the world have died within a week of each other”. A Memorial Requiem Mass for Mother Teresa was held at Westminster Cathedral on 12th September 1997. Cardinal Hume’s Homily from that Mass is available for download below.
The work of this great saint and her order is known throughout the world, instantly recognisable by the white and blue sari the sisters wear. The Missionaries of Charity have a home within this very Archdiocese of Cardiff having a modest base in Merthyr Tydfil and continuing the ideals of their saintly founder. The sisters perform many works in and around Merthyr, Cardiff and the surrounding areas including visiting the sick and vulnerable, working with the homeless, visiting prisons and street evangelisation in Cardiff on a Friday, the distinctive blue and white sari can be seen on Cardiff Queen Street each Friday.
So as we approach the 20th anniversary of the death of Mother (St.) Teresa let us heed her call to help the untouchables, the outcasts, the poor, the needy, the lonely, as she says:
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
“Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”