Mother Teresa once said: "At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in'."
Walk the streets of Washington, DC; see emaciated humans leaning on buildings, hunched-over men in the chilling cold. Their faces are dark and soiled; their clothes are filthy and damp. They lack hygiene and are most likely mentally or physically ill. They are lonely and isolated.
These are the modern-day lepers. These are the outcasts. These are the people so easily forgotten or dismissed as we live our comfortable lives. These are the men and women like you and me living and dying in desperate conditions. These are the people the Missionaries of Charity take into their home.
Responding to Christ's words to her in prayer, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1952. For over 45 years, she continued her selfless work, developing homes around the world for drug addicts, prostitutes, battered women, AIDS victims and orphans. Her zeal and works of mercy knew no bounds. The Missionaries of Charity grew from twelve sisters to thousands, serving the poorest of the poor in 450 centres. Mother Teresa died at eighty-seven on 5 September 1997, but her work lives on.
The Missionaries of Charity are contemplative and conquering. Everything they do is for Christ, through Christ and in Christ. The sisters take, as do all religious, the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and they are faithful, sacrificing everything for Jesus and His Church.
Day in and day out, they persevere, praying four hours, sleeping six, and serving the rest. They are tough and holy. Their deep prayer life, centred on the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, nourishes their soul, giving supernatural strength.
To the sisters, the neglected poor man is nothing less than Jesus crying for recognition and love, Jesus in need of food, Jesus without a home. They see in the face of each poor person the face of Jesus. They cook and provide meals for Jesus, wash the handicapped Jesus, and much more. They are His servants.
In northeast DC, the Missionaries of Charity have three homes, one for the dying, one for infants and one for the homeless. Through Mother Teresa's Hoyas (MTH), Georgetown University students are helping at these locations.
MTH is a new organisation, struggling to make ends meet, and in need of help. Next year, we are looking to expand, as well as to complete our first foreign service project, which will be in Calcutta, where Mother Teresa started her work. We are ambitious, and, with God's grace, we hope to do great things.
Mother Teresa's Hoyas responds to the cry of the poor. We show the poorest of the poor, the destitute, and the dying that they are loved, that their life is not meaningless, and that they are our ailing brothers and sisters. The service consists of preparing dinner, feeding a handicapped person, mopping a floor, or cleaning up after a meal. All is voluntary. The main task is showing love to the people. Just saying, "Hello, how are you?" is sometimes all that is needed.
Other times, one has the privilege of listening and sharing a personal story about life, faith, family, hobbies, or other thoughts with one of the poor persons. The people are hungry not only for bread, but also for love. They are naked not only for want of clothing, but also for want of human dignity and respect. They are homeless not only for need of lodging, but also for need of acceptance.
Mother Teresa's mission welcomes helpers, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. For, as Mother Teresa said, "There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God". We have among us Catholics, Muslims, Sikhs - all different religions.
Paradox of life
In serving, we gain gain more than we give. It is the paradox of life: in giving, one receives. There is no way to express how rewarding it is to serve with the Missionaries of Charity as brothers and sisters of the most unfortunate human beings in society. Words simply do not exist.
The experience of serving with the Missionaries of Charity is supernatural. The sisters are nothing less than angelic. They are proof that happiness in this life does not come from the vain pursuit of pleasure, money, or success. They and the poor people they serve radiate with a joy that is infectious. The sick and dying have a heavenly serenity and peace about them. How could the terminal, poverty-stricken, and sick be so content? The answer, Mother Teresa said, is Christ.
Peter Reynolds is a senior majoring in philosophy and government at Georgetown University, Washington, DC.
Those interested in Mother Teresa's Hoyas should contact Caitlin Devlin firstname.lastname@example.org