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Missionaries of Charity

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Missionaries of Charity
Congregatio Missionariarum a Caritate
FormationOctober 7, 1950; 73 years ago (October 7, 1950)
FounderMother Teresa
TypeReligious institute
Religious congregation
Headquarters54/a Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road, Kolkata, India
5,750 members as of 2023
Superior general
Sr. Mary Joseph Michael, MC[1]
RemarksMotto: "Do all you do with love"[2]
Sisters belonging to Missionaries of Charity in their attire of traditional white sari with blue border.

The Missionaries of Charity (Latin: Congregatio Missionariarum a Caritate) is a Catholic centralised religious institute of consecrated life of Pontifical Right for women[3] established in 1950 by Mother Teresa, now known in the Catholic Church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta. As of 2023, it consisted of 5,750 members of religious sisters. Members of the order designate their affiliation using the order's initials, "M.C.". A member of the congregation must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and the fourth vow, to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor."[4] Today, the order consists of both contemplative and active branches in several countries.

Missionaries care for those who include refugees, former prostitutes, the mentally ill, sick children, abandoned children, lepers, people with AIDS, the aged, and convalescent. They have schools that are run by volunteers to teach abandoned street children and run soup kitchens as well as other services according to the community needs. These services are provided, without charge, to people regardless of their religion or social status.


Missionaries of Charity's Mother House (Headquarters) in Kolkata

On October 7, 1950,[5] Mother Teresa and the small community formed by her former pupils was labelled as the Diocesan Congregation of the Calcutta Diocese, and thus received the permission from the Diocese of Calcutta to identify as a Catholic organization. Their 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 (now Kolkata), and in 2023 had 5,750 members serving in 139 countries in 760 homes, with 244 of these homes in India.[6] The sisters run orphanages, homes for those dying of AIDS, charity centres worldwide, and care 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. They have 19 homes in Kolkata (Calcutta) alone which include homes for women, orphaned children and homes for the dying; a school for street children, and a leper colony.

In 1963, Brother Andrew (formerly Ian Travers-Ballan) founded the Missionary Brothers of Charity in Australia along with Mother Teresa.[7]

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, others followed in Rome and Tanzania and worldwide.

In 1979 the contemplative branch of the Brothers was added and in 1984 a priest branch, the Missionaries of Charity Fathers,[8] was founded by Mother Teresa with Fr. Joseph Langford, combining the vocation of the Missionaries of Charity with the Ministerial Priesthood. As with the Sisters, the Fathers live a very simple lifestyle without television, radios or items of convenience. They neither smoke nor drink alcohol and beg for their food. They make a visit to their families every five years but do not take annual holidays.[9] Lay Catholics and non-Catholics constitute the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa, the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, and the Lay Missionaries of Charity.

The first home of the Missionaries of Charity in the United States was established in the South Bronx,[10] New York, where in 2019 they had convents for both their active and contemplative branches,[11] and had placed 108 sisters in their province that stretches from Quebec to Washington, DC.[12] Their first rural mission in the United States, in 1982, was in one of the poorest, former coal mining areas of Kentucky, where they still serve.[13][14] In the US, the Missionaries of Charity are affiliated with the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, a body of female religious, representing 20% of American religious sisters. They are identified by the wearing of religious habits, and loyalty to church teaching. By 1996, the organisation was operating 517 missions in more than 100 countries.[15]

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 elected the new Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity. In April 2009, Sister Mary Prema was elected to succeed Sister Nirmala, during a general chapter held in Kolkata.[16]

The quality of care offered to terminally ill patients in the Home for the Dying in Calcutta was the subject of discussion in the mid-1990s.[17] Some British observers, on the basis of short visits, drew unfavourable comparisons with the standard of care available in hospices in the United Kingdom. Remarks made by Dr. Robin Fox relative to the lack of full-time medically trained personnel and the absence of strong analgesics were published in a brief memoir in an issue of The Lancet in 1994. These remarks were criticised in a later issue of The Lancet on the ground that they failed to take account of Indian conditions, specifically the fact that government regulations effectively precluded the use of morphine outside large hospitals.[18]

In Phoenix, Arizona, the sisters' accommodation for 40 homeless men is funded by a clothier, featured in Vogue, who grew up within a few blocks of Mother Teresa's original home for the dying destitute in Kalighat, Calcutta.[19]

Princess Diana, who was very close to Mother Teresa, wrote that she found in her "the direction I've been searching for all these years".[20]

The Missionaries of Charity sisters were particularly hard hit by the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19, as in places they continued to distribute food and minister to the poor who had been affected.[21][22][23]

In April 2022, Sister Mary Joseph was elected to succeed Sister Mary Prema as superior general of the order, with Sister Mary Christie elected as assistant superior general.[1]

Violence against missionaries[edit]

In July 1998 in Al Hudaydah, Yemen, three Missionaries of Charity, two Indians and a Filipina, were shot and killed as they left a hospital.[24]

In March 2016 in Aden, Yemen, sixteen people were shot and killed in a home for the elderly operated by the Missionaries of Charity. Among the dead were four missionary sisters: Sisters Marguerite and Reginette from Rwanda, Sister Anselm from India and Sister Judit from Kenya. According to Bishop Paul Hinder of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, their superior escaped harm by hiding. Bishop Hinder described the attack as "religiously-motivated". A Salesian Syro-Malabar priest who was living at the facility, Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil of Bangalore, India, was taken prisoner by the attackers.[25]

On Good Friday, March 25, 2016, several media outlets reported that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil had been crucified by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. However, Bishop Hinder indicated he had strong indications that the priest was alive and still being held by his captors.[26] In early September 2017 Fr. Uzhunnalil was rescued after 18 months in captivity, and first sent to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis.[27]

Becoming a Missionary of Charity[edit]

It takes nine years to become a full-fledged Missionary of Charity. An initial short-term "come-and-see" period is available. Those considered possible candidates by the Congregation may enter Aspirancy, focused on learning English (which is the community language) for those who are not from English-speaking countries and religious studies. It is followed by Postulancy (introduction into the study of Scripture, the Constitutions of the Society, Church history, and theology). If found suitable, they enter the Novitiate, the beginning of the religious life. Novices wear white cotton habits with a girdle, and white saris without the three blue stripes. In the first year (called canonical), they undertake more religious study and learn about life as a Missionary of Charity, the second year is more focused on practical training for the mission life. After two years, they take temporary vows for one year, which are renewed annually, for five years in total. They also receive a metal crucifix and a sari whose three blue stripes stand for their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.[13] In the sixth year, they travel to Rome, Kolkata or Washington D.C. for "Tertianship", further religious study, at the end of which they make their final profession.

Material goods[edit]

A sister's few possessions include: three saris (one to wear, one to wash, one to mend),[28] two or three cotton habits, a girdle, a pair of sandals, a crucifix, and a rosary. They also have a plate, a set of cutlery, a cloth napkin, a canvas bag, and a prayer book. In cold countries, sisters may own a cardigan and other articles suited to the local climate such as a coat, scarf, and closed shoes.


Mother Teresa's home for the dying destitute Nirmal Hriday at Kalighat, Kolkata.

A British former volunteer at the Home, Robin Fox (now editor of the British medical journal The Lancet) disclosed in 1994 that syringes were rinsed in cold water and reused; that inmates were given cold baths; and that aspirin was administered to people with terminal cancer.[29] Fox also noted, however, that the residents were "eating heartily and doing well", and that the sisters and volunteers focused on cleanliness, tending wounds and sores, and providing loving kindness.[30] The controversy remains due to the use of unsterilized needles and the failure to make proper diagnoses, as put by Dr. Jack Preger: "If one wants to give love, understanding and care, one uses sterile needles."[31]

In 2018, all child care homes in India run by the Missionaries of Charity were inspected by the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development following allegations that two staff members at a Jharkhand home sold babies for adoption. A sister (Konsaila Balsa) and a social worker (Anima Indwar) employed there were arrested. They were accused of having already sold three babies from the home, which provides shelter for pregnant, unmarried women, and of trying to sell a baby boy for roughly £1,325.[32] The Missionaries of Charity had discontinued its participation in adoption services in India three years earlier over religious objections to the country's new adoption rules.[33] In December 2021, India's Ministry of Home Affairs headed by former BJP national president Amit Shah refused to renew the registration under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act of Missionaries of Charity along with 6000 other charity organizations, which is mandatory for charities, NGOs and any non-profit organizations receiving foreign funding in India registration over allegations of the organization aiding in conversion of Hindus to Catholicism (an allegation which has also been levelled against Teresa too).[34][35] However the decision was subsequently reverted in the first week of January 2022.[36]

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rosario, Francis Sunil (12 April 2022). "Q & A with Sister Mary Joseph, new superior general of the Missionaries of Charity".
  2. ^ Choi, Kamiel (27 March 2010). "Missionaries of Charity".
  3. ^ "Missionaries of Charity (M.C.)".
  4. ^ Muggeridge (1971) chapter 3, Mother Teresa Speaks, pp. 105, 113.
  5. ^ "Mother Teresa of Calcutta". vatican.va. Vatican.
  6. ^ "Mother Teresa nuns face probe over funding allegations – UCA News". ucanews.com. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Australian Founder of Missionary Brothers of Charity Dies". Cathnews.acu.edu.au. Catholic Online. 13 October 2000. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
  8. ^ "Mother Teresa – Biography". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  9. ^ "Missionaries of Charity Fathers website: Who we are". Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  10. ^ Agency, Catholic News. "At least 15 dead from coronavirus in NY religious orders". Catholic Telegraph. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  11. ^ "Cardinal Prays at Burial of Two Missionaries of Charity". Catholic New York. 6 May 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  12. ^ Armando Machado (11 September 2019). "Missionaries of Charity Praised for Faithfully Following St. Teresa's Example". Catholic New York. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  13. ^ a b "Mother Teresa's nuns return to her rural Kentucky mission". cruxnow.com. 25 December 2019. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  14. ^ Kenning, Chris. "37 years after Mother Teresa came to Appalachia, her nuns return to help the poor". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  15. ^ "Missionaries of Charity". www.motherteresa.org. Archived from the original on 6 April 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  16. ^ "German Elected to Lead Missionaries of Charity". Zenit News Agency. 25 March 2009. Archived from the original on 16 May 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
  17. ^ Goldberg, Michelle (21 May 2021). "Opinion | Was Mother Teresa a Cult Leader?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  18. ^ Robin Fox (1994). "Mother Theresa's care for the dying". The Lancet. 344 (8925): 807–808. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(94)92353-1. PMID 7818649. S2CID 54305918.; cf. "Mother Teresa's care for the dying," letters from David Jeffrey, Joseph O'Neill and Gilly Burns, The Lancet 344 (8929): 1098
  19. ^ Blufish (14 May 2020). "Pax Philomena – local clothing brand with ties to Mother Teresa – spreads joy". AZ Big Media. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  20. ^ Harris, Katie (11 May 2020). "Princess Diana reveals 'something very profound touched my life' in unseen letter". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  21. ^ AsiaNews.it. "Sister of Mother Teresa dies from coronavirus giving food to the infected". www.asianews.it. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  22. ^ "Officials say ministries of priests and religious during COVID-19 crisis highlight importance of World Day of Prayer for Vocations". Catholic Standard. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  23. ^ Caldwell, Zelda (6 April 2020). "Nun from Mother Teresa's order dies of coronavirus in UK". Aleteia – Catholic Spirituality, Lifestyle, World News, and Culture. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Southern Arabia bishop: MC nuns killed for religious motives". Vatican Radio. 5 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016. In July 1998, a gunman shot and killed three Missionaries of Charity, as they left a hospital in the city of Al Hudaydah. Two of them were Indians while the third was a Filipina.
  25. ^ "Southern Arabia bishop: MC nuns killed for religious motives". en.radiovaticana.va. Vatican Radio. 5 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016. According to Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia that has jurisdiction over Yemen, the massacre of 16 people by gunmen at the old people's home run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden is 'religiously-motivated'. ...The nun victims are Sisters Marguerite and Reginette from Rwanda, Anselm from India and Judit from Kenya. The superior survived by finding a hiding place, Bishop Hinder said, adding now she is in a safe place. ...The attackers also seized Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian Salesian missionary from Bangalore Province, who lived at the facility.
  26. ^ Rezac, Mary (28 March 2016). "There is no confirmation that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified on Good Friday". Catholic News Agency. Archived from the original on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016. Bishop Paul Hinder of Southern Arabia (a region in Saudi Arabia, the country just north of Yemen where Fr. Uzhunnalil was kidnapped), told CNA on Monday that he has 'strong indications that Fr. Tom is still alive in the hands of the kidnappers' but could not give further information in order to protect the life of the priest.
  27. ^ "Fr. Tom to Pope Francis: I offered my suffering for you and the Church". Catholic News Agency.
  28. ^ Thomas, Prince Matthews. "Pointing Fingers At Mother Teresa's Heirs". Forbes. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  29. ^ Fox, Robin (1994). "Mother Teresa's care for the dying". The Lancet. 344 (8925): 807–808. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(94)92353-1. PMID 7818649. S2CID 54305918.
  30. ^ Loudon, Mary (6 January 1996). "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, Book Review", BMJ vol. 312, no. 7022, 6 January 1996, pp.64–5. Retrieved December 30, 2011. Loudon claimed in her review that Fox had seen those practices; but he made no reference to them in his article.
  31. ^ Krishnan, Madhuvanti S. (17 March 2017). "Healing touch". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  32. ^ Safi, Michael (17 July 2018). "All Mother Teresa homes inspected amid baby-selling scandal". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  33. ^ McCarthy, Julie (9 October 2015). "Mother Teresa's Missionaries Of Charity Says No More Adoptions In India". NPR.org. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  34. ^ Singh, Vijaita; Singh, Shiv Sahay (27 December 2021). "Missionaries of Charity denied FCRA nod". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  35. ^ "Oxfam India says it's 'severely' hit by ban on foreign funds". BBC News. 3 January 2022. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  36. ^ "Missionaries of Charity gets back FCRA nod". www.telegraphindia.com. Retrieved 9 January 2022.

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