However, she continued to develop her life of prayer and the call intensified, so at the age of 18 she became a Sister of Loreto… Agnes literally made the difficult choice Jesus sets before us in the Gospel: those who follow Jesus must love him more than father or mother or family. Only later did her mother bless the call that her daughter Agnes had received; she would tell Agnes that henceforth she must be “only all for God and Jesus.”
In 1948 she received permission to begin living in Kolkata’s poorest neighborhoods where she cared for some of the world’s most destitute people. With indomitable courage, she went alone, a tiny light in the darkness. Soon she had begun a small school and some of her former pupils joined her – and a new religious congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, took shape, receiving formal approval in 1952. Her beautiful spirit of love for the poor also attracted members of the laity who work side by side with her sisters in serving poor and in affirming their dignity.
Everything a Missionary of Charity owns, she can fit into a paper bag and every MC convent is a place of greatest simplicity and Gospel joy. By renouncing possessions and conducting her work with only the barest essentials Mother Teresa was God’s instrument in building a religious congregation that now numbers 4,500 sisters and is spread throughout the world – praying intensely, attracting co-workers, serving the poor, being a light in darkness. By embracing the poverty of the Gospel, Mother Teresa and her sisters also address not only the physical poverty of the poorest of the poor but indeed the spiritual poverty of those who have more than enough possessions yet live their lives estranged from God and from others. How many people are well-fed physically yet they are starving spiritually. Mother Teresa and now her sisters reach out to them with great compassion.
Standing at the door of the convent that would welcome so many over the years, Mother Teresa said to all who were present and now she says to us, “To love and know the poor, we must be poor ourselves.” Cardinal Keeler, for his part, never looked happier and thanked Mother Teresa for choosing Baltimore as a site where her sisters would renew their vows, as they did, in this very basilica. And every time I enter the little chapel in my residence, I reflect on the fact that Mother prayed there with Cardinal Keeler…and I keep her relic in the altar.
Read more of the archbishop’s writings here.