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Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charity.
Missionaries of Charity wearing the blue-striped habit of the Order, based on the Indian sari.

Missionaries of Charity is a Roman Catholic religious order established in 1950 by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, which consists of over 4,500 sisters and is active in 133 countries. Members of the order designate their affiliation using the order's initials, "M.C." Member nuns must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and the fourth vow, to give "Wholehearted and Free service to the poorest of the poor".

The Missionaries of Charity Brothers (active Branch) were founded in 1963, and a contemplative branch of the Sisters followed in 1976. In 1984, the Missionaries of Charity Fathers was founded by Mother Teresa with Fr. Joseph Langford, to combine the vocation of the Missionaries of Charity with the ministerial priesthood. Lay Catholics and non-Catholics constitute the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa, the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, and the Lay Missionaries of Charity.

Missionaries care for those who include refugees, ex-prostitutes, the mentally ill, sick children, abandoned children, lepers, AIDS victims, the aged, and convalescent. They have schools run by volunteers to educate street children, they run soup kitchens, as many other services as per the communities' needs. They have 19 homes in Kolkata (Calcutta) alone which include homes for women, for orphaned children, and for the dying; an AIDS hospice, a school for street children, and a leper colony. These services are provided to people regardless of their religion or social caste.

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 Calcutta in March 2009.[1]

Contents

Foundation

In October 1950 Mother Teresa received Vatican permission to start her own order, which the Vatican originally labeled as the Diocesan Congregation of the Calcutta Diocese, but which later became known as the Missionaries of Charity, whose 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." It began as a small community with 12 members in Calcutta, and today it has over 4,500 nuns running orphanages, AIDS hospices, 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.

2005 Image of Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in Kolkata.

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 addition, the first home of the Missionaries of Charity in the United States was established in the South Bronx, New York. By 1996, she was operating 517 missions in more than 100 countries and today is assisted by over one million co-workers and billions of donations.

Becoming a Missionary of Charity

It takes nine years to become a full fledged member. For one year, candidates become "come-and-see's." At first, potential Sisters work as assistants in Shishu Bhavan and Nirmal Hriday, tending to the patients there. After one year, if the young women still wish to join and are still considered candidates, they choose religious names and begin to study. They study scriptures, Constitutions of Society, church history, and theology. If they aren't from English-speaking countries, they learn to speak it. Novices wear white saris without the three blue stripes. After two years, they take vows, and renew them after the fourth and after the fifth years. They also receive the blue striped sari. In the sixth year, they travel to Rome, or Calcutta, for a year in deep spiritual growth.

A Sister's possessions include: three saris (one to wear, one to wash, one to mend), a pair of sandals, flour sack underclothes, a crucifix and rosary. They also have a plate and metal spoon, a canvas bag, and prayer book. In cold countries, possessions also include a cardigan. They never wear anything but sandals on their feet.

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