Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Sisters of Charity: A brief overview

For those interested, below is a little more information on the Sisters I work with:  


Mother Teresa began work with the poor in 1948 adopting Indian citizenship. She went to Patna for basic medical training in the Holy Family Hospital and then ventured out into the slums. She started a school in Motijhil (Calcutta) where shortly after she started tending to the needs of the destitute and starving. In the beginning of 1949 she was joined in her effort by a group of young women and laid the foundations to create a new religious community helping the "poorest among the poor" aka The Sisters (also called the Missionaries of Charity). Today it has over 4,500 Sisters running orphanages, AIDS hospices and charity centers worldwide. The Sisters are caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, the elderly,  the mentally and physically ill, alcoholics and drug addicts, the poor, homeless and victims of floods, epidemics and famine. The convent I work at mainly works with homeless women who have been taken in from the streets and have no place else to go. They receive food, medical care and medication and a place to live and sleep. Men are allowed to come to the convent in the evenings for dinner and eat in a separate area from the women. 

How does someone become a Sister? 

It takes nine years to become a full-fledged Missionary of Charity. At the beginning, anyone interested in this life can come for a short term "come-and-see" experience. (NO- this is most certainly not what I am doing!!) If young women still wish to join and are still considered possible candidates by the Congregation (they would have kicked me out by now, LOL) they enter Aspirancy, where they focus on learning English (which is the community language) for those who are not from English speaking countries and deepening of their Christian life. It is followed by Postulancy (introduction into the study of the Sacred Scripture, the Constitutions of the Society, Church history, and Theology). If found suitable, they enter the Novitiate, which is the true beginning of the religious life. Novices wear a white cotton habit with a girdle and white saris without the three blue stripes. In the first year (called canonical), they deepen their life of prayer and relationship with God along with their knowledge of life as a Missionary of Charity, the second year is focused on the practical training for the mission life. After two years, they take temporary vows for one year, which are renewed annually (five years in total). They also receive the blue striped sari of the Congregation and a metal crucifix as a sign of their spousal love for Christ. In the sixth year, they travel to Rome, Calcutta or Washington D.C. for "Tertianship", a year of deep spiritual growth, at the end of which they make their final profession.

What sort of possessions do the Sisters have? 

Ummmmmmmmmmm....NOT MUCH. A Sister's possessions include: three saris (one to wear, one to wash, one to mend); two or three cotton habits; a girdle; a pair of sandals (I have only seen the Sisters wear 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, nuns may own a cardigan and other articles suited to the local climate such as a coat, scarf, and closed shoes. 

The daily life of a Sister in Roma:

I had a conversation with Sister Claire recently where she explained to me the Sisters all wake up at 4:30am. They spend a few minutes cleaning their beds (they all sleep in a common room), they pray for an hour, have some quiet time, attend mass and then start work in their respective areas at 7am. They work until the evening and are in bed around 10pm each night. 

Now a personal sob story which has nothing to do with anything I just posted above: I had to run back to the convent this afternoon to ask Sister Lutiza a question. While I was waiting for the Sisters to finish praying (they do this every afternoon), I encountered a man who started to talk to me when he discovered I was speaking english to another volunteer. We chatted for a few brief minutes and he told me he had just moved to Roma from Milan and he was doing a story on the Vatican, as he is a photographer for National Geographic (he is American and from Indiana). Now, I doubt this man is my soulmate, but we spent a few minutes talking and I really wanted him to ask me out- he was nice, very smart and well educated, handsome, older than me, he has a good job and is living in Roma- all qualities I love!!! Well- our conversation was cut drastically short by Sister Lutiza coming down the stairs and whisking me away to said patient's room (a stroke victim the Sisters take care of) who needed medical assistance (and by medical assistance I mean I had to help change her diaper). So- instead of being offered dinner by this dashing American photographer, I was stuck doing some dirty work (for real). Karma for something I have done, I am sure! I didn't even get his name and he was gone by the time I left : ( Once again, the Sisters are plotting to ruin my love life! 

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