mother of humanitarianism

this post was supposed to be up this morning but i had forgotten all about it. actually 3 days ago, i had received email from cahayasuara communications centre about it and had wanted to post about it this morning but due to, too much work on my mind, it slipped my mind. anyway, never too late, as it is not pass midnight yet (only thing is people knew of it, if they haven’t yet, late).

i’m just going to CnP what i received from cahayasuara. it will be very lengthy but worth the read especially if you are one who admire mother teresa, like me. the media release talks about a film festival (4 & 6 sept) to celebrate mother teresa’s 100th anniversary, and the media backgrounder talks about herself and her work.

yes i do admire mother teresa tremendously.  how she walked the streets looking for unwanted homeless people.  the thing i remember most about her was when she brought home a dying man, a fellow nun said to her that the man is dying already, why brought him into the home (their missionary of charity home) and mother teresa replied that the man has to die with dignity. she even cleaned and dressed up the man… then the man died. mother teresa also came out with many sayings that are very meaningful and the one that touched me most is “the greatest poverty in the world is the feeling of being unwanted.”.  i also like her poem “love them anyway”.

speaking about poem, ah yes, a few weeks after her death, i wrote a poem dedicated to mother teresa. i based the poem on the popular song of old blue eyes (frank sinatra, for the uninitiated) – my way and titled it ‘god’s way’.  read about it in my poems corner (but since i feel so proud of it, i’m going to copy it here too right at the end. ahem.)

do you admire mother teresa? what is it that you like about her?

(above picture taken from CNN, where there is a write-up about a celebration in india)



100 years of Humanitarianism

Nations around the globe are gearing up to commemorate the life and work of one of the world’s most known and cherished figures: Mother Teresa of Calcutta .

Numerous organisations are already spreading her legacy of service, peace and unconditional love for the marginalised via various activities, such as the 3rd Mother Teresa International Film Festival 2010, which will be held from 26th to 29th August 2010 in Kolkata.

This international event will be co-hosted by Mother Teresa’s own movement, the Missionaries of Charity Sisters, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta, in collaboration with SIGNIS Asia and SIGNIS Bengal-India (SIGNIS is the World Catholic Association for Communication) to commemorate Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday.

The purpose of the Film Festival is to pay homage and spread awareness about the Albanian-born Mother Teresa (whose real name was Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu), her humanitarian works and her mission, and to advocate her message of love, compassion and peace through the medium of cinema.

The efforts to celebrate Mother Teresa will not remain confined to Kolkata City , but very much like her work, will spread to the rest of the world. Countries like Thailand , Singapore , Indonesia , Philippines , Sri Lanka , Cambodia , Vietnam , Hong Kong , South Korea , Japan , Macau , Taiwan , Pakistan , Bangladesh and Myanmar , have also confirmed that Film Festival plans are in the pipeline, in their respective countries.

In Malaysia , ten movies/documentaries dedicated to the life and humanitarian works of Mother Teresa will be screened at Cahayasuara Communication Centre, Jalan Robertson, Pudu, Kuala Lumpur , on Saturday 4thSeptember 2010, from 10:00am to 6:00pm, and on Monday 6th September 2010, also from 10:00am to 6:00pm. Admission on both days is free.

One of the main aims of the event, besides honouring the great humanitarian, is to increase awareness about her legacy and how people from all walks of life can inspire others to reach out and make a difference in their own way, in her memory.

Following this event, a year-long programme has been drawn up, including presentations, competitions and other activities, that will celebrate her legacy, between August 26th 2010, and August 25th 2011. To mark the start of the celebration, a website specially dedicated to Mother Teresa,, has been launched.

The site will help the world to follow all the happenings, news and views that surround the Film Festival, keep those interested updated on the latest additions or entrants to the Festival, and generally act as a channel of communication for the public and the Festival organisers.

Also, from 26th August 2010, the Birth Centenary of Mother Teresa, selected quotes from her writings will be issued by SIGNIS Malaysia via text and e-mail to commemorate her life, work and compassion. To receive the messages please

About SIGNIS Malaysia

SIGNIS Malaysia, the Catholic Association for Communication in Malaysia , is a body of and for Catholics involved in the media. SIGNIS is a worldwide network of associations, institutions and individuals working in the mass media, which aims to alert Christians to the importance of human communication in every culture, and to encourage ecumenical and interfaith cooperation through the media sector. SIGNIS is present in 122 countries worldwide.

26th August 2010




Simplicity – that was what struck most people about Mother Teresa, whom many refer to as the Living Saint. That, and her humility. Among the most recognized celebrities of her day, Mother Teresa nevertheless remained devoted to her vocation of caring for the sick and dying, bringing comfort to those who most needed it, and showing unconditional love that few have been able to equal.

The early years

Born Gonxha (or Agnes) Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Yugoslavia on 26th August 1910, to Albanian parents Nikola and Dronda Bojaxhiu, she was the youngest of the couple’s three surviving children. When she was born, Skopje was still under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Today, it is the capital of Macedonia. The family was not poor, but from a young age, Agnes exhibited a great interest in the religious life, particularly with missionary life and service.

At the age of 18, she chose to enter the Loreto Sisters of Dublin, a religious Order which emphasized missionary work and education for young girls. In 1929, she was sent to the Order’s novitiate in Darjeeling, India, and in 1931, took her First Vows there. She chose the name of Teresa, to honour Saint Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux. From there, the Order sent her to St Mary’s High School in Calcutta, where she taught history and geography for 15 years.

Her Calling and Work

One day in 1946, while on a train to Darjeeling for a retreat, she clearly heard a Divine message, an invitation to her Calling: to work exclusively for the poor. She was to leave her community, give up teaching and serve the poor in the slums of Calcutta. But before she did so, she took a course in nursing in Patna for a few months, to prepare for her work. She also had to live and work on the streets, without the safety and support of the Loreto Sisters.

In 1948, she obtained permission from Pope Pius XII to leave her community and live independently. Falling back on her 15 years as an educationist, she began teaching the children in the slums, making use of whatever equipment was available; more often than not, writing in the dirt for want of proper facilities! Through the children, she began to reach more people, including their underprivileged families, those even poorer, and the sick.

But within a year, help appeared. Young women started volunteering their services. These would later become the first members of her Missionaries of Charity. Other people donated food, clothing, medical supplies and money. Increased assistance meant that she could extend her work further. In 1952, she opened the Nirmal Hriday (Pure Heart) Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta, where dying Indians could be cared for in their last days, so they might be able to die in peace, and with dignity.

Today, the seeds of what she sowed have manifested themselves in numerous homes for the dying, refuges for orphans and abandoned children, treatment centres for lepers, alcoholics and addicts, and hospitals for the aged and marginalized street people. More than 5,000 sisters, brothers and volunteers run about 500 centres worldwide that feed as many as 500,000 families and help 90,000 lepers annually.

Mother Teresa continued her work among the poorest of the poor for more than four decades, although she suffered from poor health herself, in her later years. A few months before her death, she relinquished her position as head of the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, secure in the knowledge that the work would continue. On 5th September 1997, after dinner and prayers, she returned to God, and the world mourned a Living Saint whose life was a stellar example of selflessness and service to others. Her funeral service was held on 13th September 1997, the 51st Anniversary of her receiving her Divine mission on that train to Darjeeling.

Service to All

By the late 1950s, her work was in full swing, touching countless lives. Within the first ten years, she was not allowed to work outside her own diocese of Calcutta but she nevertheless managed to set up Kalighat, a hospice for the dying, in the grounds of a Hindu temple. After 1960, her work expanded throughout India, and she began to receive national attention.

No matter where she went, she drew large crowds; people were readier to listen to her than to any politician because of her simple message of unconditional love and humanity that everyone understood. At a time when majority-Hindu fundamentalism was gaining ground and causing concern among Muslims in India, no one asked why a Christian missionary seemed to be the (unelected) spokesperson for the Indian poor! “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic,” she has been quoted as saying. “We believe our work should be our example to people.”

Peace is the Prize

The setting is a hall decked out in velvet and gold, illuminated by crystal chandeliers. The guests are rich, powerful, talented, brilliant, famous – the movers and shakers of the world, elegantly dressed, in formal black or bejeweled couture gowns. From this exalted gathering, a small, stooped woman in a faded blue sari and scuffed sandals steps forward, and receives the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She has none of heir wealth, but she has more power than the entire assembly.

For more than 50 years, Mother Teresa was the servant of the poor, sick and dying – and her power flowed from a spiritual wellspring that offered itself freely to the underprivileged and marginalized not only of India but anywhere in the world where her Missionaries of Charity lived out their vocations. During her lifetime, she showed in a concrete and pragmatic way, what others only talk about: that peace is not just what you wish for, it’s something you have to work at, something you have to assimilate into your being, and live out, before you can give it away.

Many may have commented on the apparent contradiction of the Peace Prize being funded by the foundation of the inventor of dynamite, but Mother Teresa graciously accepted the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, saying, “I am grateful to receive it in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, and all those who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for, and those who have become a burden to society and are shunned by everyone.”

The Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitutes a threat to peace” was not the only honour she received. In 1962, she received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, and in 1971, Pope Paul VI awarded her the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize. The Albert Schweitzer International Prize was awarded to her in 1975, and the year after, she received the Pacem in Terris Award, and was appointed an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia in 1982.

Both the UK and US bestowed honours on her, and Albania, her homeland, awarded her its Golden Honour of the Nation in 1994. The US granted her honorary citizenship in 1996. It is no wonder then that she was considered the most admired person of the 20th century; described by former UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar as “The United Nations; the Peace in the World.”

Path to Sainthood

Long before the Church officially beatified her in 2003, Mother Teresa was declared a Living Saint, and actually made the cover of Time Magazine in 1975. While she lived, her work was known far and wide, and after her death, many miracles started being attributed to her. But the path to Sainthood – even for those whom the earthly media choose to declare saintly in life – is never smooth.

The Church never takes reports of such happenings lightly; thorough investigations are conducted before any person can be declared a saint. Under normal circumstances, five years must pass after a person dies, before the proceedings to declare him or her a saint, can begin. In Mother Teresa’s case, however, Pope John Paul II allowed proceedings to begin in 1999, just two years after her death.

According to the Church’s rules, one miracle is required to reach the beatification stage. In Mother Teresa’s case, this miracle was the healing of a woman, Monica Besra, from tubercular meningitis, after she prayed to Mother Teresa. Hundreds of other miracles have also been reported, but a second one must be approved before Blessed Teresa of Calcutta can be officially declared Saint Teresa of Calcutta, and of the Catholic Church.

Her work continues: The Missionaries of Charity

On 7th October 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Vatican to start the Missionaries of Charity. She declared that its mission was to care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, and all those who feel unwanted, unloved, who are uncared for by society, and those that have become a burden and are shunned by everyone.”

The Missionaries began with just 13 people in Calcutta but many were quickly attracted to its noble cause. In 1952, its first Home for the Dying was opened in Calcutta, converted from an abandoned Hindu temple. It was called Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart, or Nirmal Hriday. Those brought to the home could die with dignity, according to the rituals of their respective faiths. The Muslims were read the Quran, the Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Christians received Last Rites. Kalighat was soon followed by Shanti Nagar, or City of Peace, for those suffering from leprosy. Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart, was established in 1955, for orphans and homeless youth.

By the 1960s, the Missionaries had established hospices, orphanages and leper houses nationwide; then went international, opening in Venezuela with five Sisters. Rome, Tanzania and Austria followed, and in the 1970s, the Order spread to Asia, Africa, Europe and the US. The Missionary of Charity Brothers began in 1963, and in 1991, Mother Teresa returned for the first time to her homeland, Albania, and opened a Missionaries of Charity Brothers home in Tirana. She expanded her efforts to Eastern Europe in the 1980s, to former Communist satellite states, and by 1996, was operating in more than 100 countries, and by 2007, the Order was operating 600 missions, schools and shelters in 120 countries globally.

Honouring her Life

India, her adopted country, has chosen to honour her in significant ways, through institutions that have become iconic within the Indian context. Indian Railways, which granted her lifetime travel, will put on a special “Mother Express” to commemorate her 100th Birthday. The Indian Government, recognizing the great service done to the country and people, will issue a special Commemorative Coin in her honour. To celebrate her life, achievements and love for humanity, SIGNIS Bengal (India) has established the Mother Teresa International Film Festival (MTIFF), now in its third year, that invites participation from all those who have made films on her life and work.

Quotes to live by

Never ostentatious or verbose, she sometimes confounded interviewers and journalists by answering their convoluted questions in the simplest of ways. Her advice was always sound, practical, and above all, do-able, as her quotes illustrate:
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
Peace begins with a smile.

The paradox is that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

She also exhibited a sometimes puckish sense of humour. “The other day I dreamed that I was at the gates of heaven,” she is reputed to have told Prince Michael of Greece in 1996. “And St Peter said, ‘Go back to Earth. There are no slums up here.’”

In conjunction with Mother Teresa’s 100th Birthday, SIGNIS Malaysia will be sending out selected quotes via SMS and e-mail, to spread the word of Peace If you would like to receive daily reminders of kindness, caring and universal love, please email


a poem by Lucia Lai dedicated to Mother Teresa
GOD’S WAY (to the tune of Frank SInatra’s ‘My Way’)

And now her end is here, she had gone to meet God
My friend, let me tell you
She was the one, a most unique person
She lived her life that was full, a life full of love and compassion
And more, much more than that, her life is of God’s way
Yes all the time, she had shown us
We must empty ourselves to serve the poor
And through it all, to see Christ in the poor
Gave them hope and dignity
With true compassion and selfless love, which is God’s way
She walked the streets, in and out of the slums
Searching for all those unwanted, wretched people
She find them very precious
To think they are God’s gift, so she said “Made them feel loved”
Oh yes, oh yes, that should be the way, God’s way
For who are us, if we don’t give up something
That was what she would ask each and everyone of us
And those were not words of herself
But what that God is asking us too, doing it His way
Regrets she had none, as she knew this call came from God
She did what she had to do, reaching out to the untouchables
In this, she shows us, a way of expressing our love for God
And more than ever, she always did it God’ way
(note: this poem was sent to the star a week after mother teresa’s death. it was published.)

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