10 Years After Her Death, Mother Teresa's Legacy Lives On

Tuesday, September 4th 2007, 3:29 pm
By: News On 6

CALCUTTA, India (AP) _ The destitute and the diseased still gather outside Mother Teresa's clinics in this sprawling city in eastern India, where the nun known simply as ``Mother'' dedicated her life to the poorest of the poor.

Mother Teresa died 10 years ago Wednesday, but the legacy of the Roman Catholic nun became a Nobel Peace Prize winner continues to inspire. The order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, has expanded _ the group says it now has more than 4,800 sisters and more than 750 homes worldwide.

Gopal Das, 50, was living on the streets with a malignant stomach tumor, and Ninandath, who goes by one name, had a festering leg wound when Missionaries of Charity sisters found them.

``We would have been dead if the sisters had not brought us here,'' said Das. He was staying at Nirmal Hriday, or ``Pure Heart,'' the first of the many clinics Mother Teresa opened in Calcutta.

Moon Moon Mondal, 17, was raised by the nuns because her parents couldn't afford to keep her at home.

She thanks the nuns for educating her so she could find a job. She returns most days to visit her brother and sister and to see the nuns.

In this community, there has been no public sign of disappointment over Mother Teresa's doubts about her faith, detailed in a new collection of her writings.

``Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the 'Saint of Calcutta,''' recounts Mother Teresa's anguish over the crisis of faith, and the pain she felt over her separation from God. Some writings indicate that, at times, she may have doubted the existence of God.

Sister Nirmala, who now oversees the order, sees no contradictions in that spiritual struggle.

``It is part of our Mother's spiritual life,'' she said at a ceremony Sunday on the 97th anniversary of Mother Teresa's birth. ``It is the path God chose for her deep interior purification and transformation.''

Mother Teresa was an ethnic Albanian who came here in 1929 as Sister Teresa after she said she heard a call from God to serve the poorest of the poor. She set up schools for street children and medical clinics for slum-dwellers.

In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity. The order is still housed in the same four-story building Calcutta residents know as Mother House.

When she died on Sept. 5, 1997, the Missionaries of Charity had nearly 4,000 nuns and ran roughly 600 orphanages, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics. In the decade since, people both inside and outside the group say the order has maintained its standards.

The group has ``continued to function in the same spirit and work with the same sincerity among the poor and unprivileged,'' said Dr. Ruma Chatterjee of the Society for the Visually Handicapped, a nonprofit group that works with Mother Teresa's organization.

But Mother Teresa was not beloved by all. She was criticized for taking donations from Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and disgraced American financier Charles Keating. Detractors opposed her stance against birth control.

Still, she remains popular in Calcutta, especially among the poor.

Krishna Das was among those rescued by Mother Teresa and her sisters some 30 years ago. Today, he works with the volunteers at Nirmal Hriday.

``I have seen the sisters during Mother's time and also now,'' Das said. ``This center is serving the same way and providing help to the poor with the same zeal.''

Sister Nirmala hasn't become a household name like Mother Teresa, but she never expected to be.

``My way of coping with the challenge is simple _ just to be myself,'' she said. ``I didn't fill Mother's shoes, that is impossible. I followed the footsteps left by the Mother.''

Several ceremonies were planned for Wednesday, including candlelight processions and a Mass to be conducted by the Archbishop of Calcutta. There will also be a multifaith ceremony at Mother House.

Mother Teresa was beatified in 2003 after the Vatican said an Indian woman's prayers to the nun rid her of an incurable tumor. Under Catholic tradition, an additional miracle must be verified for her to become a saint.

But those who worked with Mother Teresa are not worried about the timing.

``In the heart of people,'' said Sister Nirmala, ``Mother is always a saint.''