Mother Teresa came to India as a missionary sister to help the poor, but ended up teaching girls from wealthy families in a school in Calcutta. World War II and the subsequent independence of India created a crisis situation that led Mother Teresa to abandon her former work and found a new religious order of sisters specifically to work with the poor. This paper will trace the events and inspiration that led her to take such an unusual step, and look at the opposition she faced in making that choice.
Poverty and Starvation in India
There had always been poverty in India during the time of the British Raj, but things got much worse with the outbreak of World War II. As a British possession India was an official enemy of the Axis powers. This meant that when the Japanese occupied Burma in 1943 they cut off the rice supply to Bengal. Meanwhile floods and a cyclone in 1942 had destroyed most of the crops in Bengal, and things became desperate in India. Famine struck and refugees from the countryside poured into the cities. British mismanagement of the food supplies made things worse. Some British residents, especially the women, did what they could to help the people. Houses were filled with refugees and food was distributed, but millions died in spite of everything that could be done.
[...] Conclusion Mother Teresa came to India to help the poor, but it took a world war and violent religious conflict to create the situation where she was allowed to leave the protection of the cloister and go out into the ghettos. In her youth Mother Teresa had read about nuns risking their lives in missionary work, but by the time she arrived in India men like Archbishop Périer were too protective to allow that. The level of crisis in India at the time of independence finally created the situation where Mother Teresa could do the work she came to do, and in the process call the world's attention to the troubles of the poor in India, and, eventually, around the world. [...]
[...] Members of new order had a rigorous schedule with no luxuries. They got up at 4:30 a.m. (4:15 on Sunday), washed their faces with cold water from a tank and cleaned their teeth with ashes from the kitchen stove. They washed themselves and did their laundry with cold water from a bucket and a very small piece of soap. This, however, was not as much of a hardship in the warm climate of India as it might sound. Washing and doing laundry from a bucket was fairly common, even for middle class Indians of that time. [...]
[...] In the early days Mother Teresa found time to tutor some of the young women and sent one woman to study to be a doctor. VI.Aid for the Dying In Calcutta By 1952, when the new order had been established the problem of people dying in the streets became a public issue. Some Calcutta residents saw a boy lying in the gutter and called an ambulance to take him to the hospital. When the hospital refused him as a hopeless case the ambulance had to return him to the gutter to die. [...]
[...] The New Work Mother Teresa found a house of Carmelite nuns who followed rules of poverty similar to the ones she wanted to adopt for her new order and lodged with them. She went to the slums each day to do her work. She appears to have started out with only a vague idea of what her work among the poorest of the poor would be. She was an experienced teacher, so she started with what she knew. She gathered a group of children around her and began to teach them the Bengali alphabet. [...]
[...] While on the train to Darjeeling, on September 10, 1946—a day since celebrated as Inspiration Day by the religious order she would found—Mother Teresa believed that she was called to start a new religious order. According to the insight Mother Teresa received on the train, the new order would be dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its aim would be to “quench the infinite thirst of Jesus Christ on the cross for love of souls,” by working directly with the poor. [...]
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