“I think I must tell you that I come here with a selfish motive. And the selfish motive is: In Yemen we need sisters like you to take care of the sick. Yemen is a completely Moslem country and after 800 years the government has asked us for Catholic sisters to come and serve the people. The only condition I made to the government was that they give us permission to bring a priest with us because there is no sign of Christianity there. I said to them without Mass and Holy Communion we cannot live.” With these words, 48 years ago, Mother Teresa addressed our SSpS Sisters, members of the General Chapter.
The Bible and the example of God’s people show us that there is no such thing as chance. No matter how small the event, God is personally involved in the entire thing in order to work out His purposes.
I suppose not many of us know that by chance our Mother Aloysine Rascop (1960-1973) found out that Mother Teresa of Calcutta was in Rome just for two days. What a surprise, that she accepted Rev. Mother’s invitation to talk to the capitulars during the 7th SSpS General Chapter. The visit had happened in Nov 02, 1973 at 12 pm and Mother Theresa talked for one hour to 71 SSpS followed by a discussion. The Sisters were happy and very impressed with their meeting with Mother Teresa in person, not only her words but also her simple, natural appearance witnessed to her mission.
It is worthwhile recalling and passing on some of Mother Teresa’s thoughts because I think her message is very meaningful for us also today.
The government gave permission and on the 15th of August 1973, Mother Teresa founded a new station in Yemen. The government has asked repeatedly for Sisters to work in the Hospital and Mother Teresa passed that request on to us as a mission congregation. She said that basically all religious have the same task, namely to give witness to God who is love in a world full of suffering, heartlessness, and injustice. This task however, we can fulfil only in fidelity to Christ in a life of consecration, of prayer and penance. Mother Teresa does not consider it necessary that we compete with the women of our times in our style of life and the career we choose. Her Congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, introduced the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and as she said “… our little chapel has become the cathedral.” The sisters start the day with the celebration of the Eucharist and one hour of Adoration. This has brought new life into the Congregation, Mother Teresa said, because it strengthens the faith of the Sisters to see Christ in the poor, the sick and the dying, and to serve Him in them. Again, and again, Mother Teresa stressed that we as consecrated women, are invited to put ourselves completely at God’s disposal, let ourselves be used as instruments of HIS love. Our General Chapter, she felt, has a tremendous task and responsibility to give to the Sisters “living bread” and to reflect on the true life, the Holy Spirit. The world is hungry for Holiness which is not a luxury but a duty.
St. Teresa of Calcutta’s, also called Mother Teresa, original name Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in Skopje, Macedonia, on August 26, 1910 (baptized the next day), died in Calcutta on September 05, 1997. She was beatified on October 19, 2003, reaching the ranks of the blessed in what was then the shortest time in the history of the church. She was canonized by Pope Francis on September 04, 2016 (Feast day: September 05)
In 1962 the Indian government awarded Mother Teresa the Padma Shri, one of its highest civilian honours, for her services to the people of India. She was summoned to Rome in 1968 to found a home there, staffed primarily with Indian nuns. In recognition of her apostolate, she was honoured on January 6, 1971, by Pope Paul VI, who awarded her the first “Pope John XXIII Peace Prize” . In 1979 she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work, and the following year the Indian government conferred on her the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour. In her later years, Mother Teresa spoke out against divorce, contraception, and abortion. She also suffered ill health and had a heart attack in 1989. In 1990 she resigned as head of the order but was returned to the office by a nearly unanimous vote—the lone dissenting voice was her own. A worsening heart condition forced her retirement, and the order chose the Indian-born Sister Nirmala as her successor in 1997.
Yemen’s conflict may be entering a critical phase. That’s not because the war has become easier to end. If anything, almost seven years of fighting – armed groups, many of which with the support of external actors – has only made the war more complex. But the Biden administration’s changed approach to the war, has helped – the USA will support regional actors who are open to compromise or at least to talking.
An estimated 20 million people – two-thirds of the Yemeni population – depend on humanitarian assistance. Some two million children are acutely malnourished. In addition to the conflict, Yemen has seen a collapse of its health system, leaving it incapable of coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
At the end of her talk Mother Teresa asked the capitulars to pray “…that we may not spoil God’s work!” and going out, she begged again: “And don’t forget YEMEN”.
Let us pray and be attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit. “The game is worthwhile in so far as we don’t know what will be the end” (Foucault Michel). Trusting in the love of God, all things are possible. Let us keep that hope and joy in our hearts as we continue God’s mission!
Krystyna Szweda is from Poland. Studied at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, a doctorate in Theology at the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. Work as a teacher, formator, and spiritual guide. From 2017 in charge of SSpS Congregational Historical Archive in Rome.
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