My time with the Missionaries of Charity
April 18, 2016 | posted by Madeline Davis
My time with the Missionaries of Charity
“E-e-e-e-vermore, I will satiate thy thirst for souls," the cluster of white-saried sisters sing to their crucified spouse. In a very confining nutshell, that is the charism of the Missionaries of Charity, who seek to serve Christ through their fellow men: “Christ in the most distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.”
For three weeks, my mom and I prayed and worked alongside the Sisters in “Hogar Paz y Alegría” (Home of Peace and Joy). Here, in the poor end of the Santa Fe district of Mexico City, the Sisters fed, housed, and cared for some 60 residents -- elderly women without family, mentally/physically handicapped women and orphans. The work involved a considerable amount of cooking, feeding, cleaning, loving -- and then some more cleaning- and lots of laundry, which in the spirit of poverty, was done by hand.
All of this would seem a little much for the two dozen Sisters. This is where the beautiful relationship between the Sisters’ and the laity is important. Volunteers, coming from the surrounding area and beyond, provide a staple of the work force which keeps the house running.High school and college students can be found folding clothes from the prodigious piles of laundry for their service hours. “Retired” mothers and grandmothers can be heard singing to and seen feeding children. My mother and I worked almost the entire time with the children, helping to bathe, clothe, feed, and play with them. On Saturdays, a group of seminarians came and scrubbed the orphanage top-to-bottom. The Sisters wouldn’t be able to accomplish nearly as much alone, but their ministry and example provide opportunity and inspiration to people of all backgrounds, leading them to live Christian charity in their own lives more fully.
While the Sisters are devoted to their work, their roles are well designed to keep them balanced.This was a surprise to me, having incorrectly assumed the Sisters spend day in and day out, a life of service. A life of service must be established in prayer – a fact well-recognized in the Sisters’ schedule, which includes morning prayer, Mass, a holy hour, rest, recreation, and evening prayer, as well as two main periods of service. Also, on Thursdays, the house is closed to visitors, and the Sisters receive a talk from a priest, preserving the day as a sort of weekly retreat. Though there is always work to do, and their life is hardly easy, it is realistic, making the Sisters’ lifelong dedication to the poor possible.
To radiate Christ serving the poor not only inspires these active Sisters, but the other Missionaries of Charity branches as well: fathers, brothers (active and contemplative), contemplative sisters, and lay missionaries. In their chapel, the crucifix and words “I thirst” are prominent -- the very foundation of the order- but so is the tabernacle, and the statue of Our Lady. This, in a way, shows other aspects of their charism -- devotion to Our Lord hidden in the Eucharist as well as the poor, and an ardent love for Mary. The influence of the Jesuits (during her childhood) and the Sisters of Loreto (her original community) on Blessed Mother Teresa can be perceived in the Missionaries of Charity, such as in their missionary spirit, studies and reflections, and some of their Marian devotions.
Though my mom and I were geared up for Spanish immersion, our very first surprise was that the Sisters all spoke English and prayed together in English. We met Sisters and postulants from India, Nicaragua, Canada, Haiti, Tanzania, Wyoming, Argentina, Mexico and other Latin American countries. Using English as their official language helps the Sisters maintain a sense of community and continuity, no matter what part of the world they come from, move to or work in.
Just as they add to the Divine praises: “Blessed be Jesus in the poorest of the poor,” they also express their charism in their unique fourth vow of charity, another example of their complete dedication to serving Christ in whoever most needs their love and attention. This complete dedication of their lives to shining the light of Jesus, in their effort to quench his thirst for souls, is what impressed me the most. That they do this work not just for a couple weeks, (like us volunteers), not just certain days of the week, but every day, for the rest of their lives – that is an incredible commitment.
Madeline Davis is a homeschooling senior who lives in New Braunfels and is discerning a religious vocation.