Mother Teresa's mission lives on in Kolkata, grows worldwide

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Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity
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Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity
A nun belonging to the global Missionaries of Charity tends to a patient at Nirmal Hriday, a home for the destitute and old, founded by Mother Teresa ahead of Mother Teresa's canonisation ceremony, in Kolkata, India, August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
Nuns from the Missionaries of Charity pray at a special mass in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, October 2, 2002. [Mother Teresa, who had established the missionary, is a step closer to being confirmed sainthood by Pope John Paul after a committee at the Vatican confirmed last week she had 'heroic virtues' of Christian faith.]
A nun belonging to the global Missionaries of Charity offers a prayer inside a church at Prem Dan, a home for the destitute and old, run by the Missionaries of Charity ahead of Mother Teresa's canonisation ceremony, in Kolkata, India, August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
A nun belonging to the global Missionaries of Charity reacts as she interacts with children at the Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, a children's home founded by Mother Teresa, ahead of Mother Teresa's canonization ceremony in Kolkata, India August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
Sister Angelita, of Missionaries of Charity, holds 4-month old Michael at an orphanage in Old Dhaka November 18, 2009. Michael is a patient with hydrocephalus, a condition with excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH SOCIETY RELIGION)
Men lie on their beds at Nirmal Hriday, a home for the destitute and dying run by the Global Missionaries of Charity order of nuns, in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata September 3, 2007. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw (INDIA)
Sister Nirmala (R) and Sister Prema release doves on the occasion of the 100th birth anniversary of Mother Teresa at the order's house in Kolkata, India August 26, 2010. Sister Nirmala Joshi, who succeeded Nobel laureate Mother Teresa as the head of her Missionaries of Charity and expanded the movement overseas, died on June 23, 2015 aged 80. After taking over the charity following Mother Teresa's death in 1997, Nirmala expanded the organisation's reach to 134 countries by opening centres in nations such as Afghanistan, Israel and Thailand. Picture taken August 26, 2010. REUTERS/Deshakalayan Chowdhury/Pool
A nun belonging to the global Missionaries of Charity tends to a patient at Nirmal Hriday, a home for the destitute and old, founded by Mother Teresa ahead of Mother Teresa's canonisation ceremony, in Kolkata, India, August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
A nun belonging to the global Missionaries of Charity gives a packet of fruit juice to a boy at the Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, a children's home founded by Mother Teresa, ahead of Mother Teresa's canonization ceremony in Kolkata, India August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
A volunteer gives milk to a terminally ill patient at Nirmal Hriday, a home for the destitute and dying, run by the global Missionaries of Charity order of nuns in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta on September 24, 2003. The home was set up by Nobel peace prize winning nun Mother Teresa [who will be beatified, or declared blessed, on October 19 at the Vatican by Pope John Paul. Beatification is a key step towards sainthood. Mother Teresa died six years ago at the age of 87 in Calcutta.]
Catholic nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, the global order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa, attend a prayer meeting on the occasion of Teresa's 12th death anniversary in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata September 5, 2009. Mother Teresa was a Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun who died in 1997, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003 at the Vatican. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw (INDIA RELIGION OBITUARY)
Sister Shurovi feeds an abandoned child, next to other abandoned children placed in baskets, as Sister Maricor looks on, at an orphanage in Old Dhaka May 11, 2014. Both Sister Maricor and Sister Shurovi are from Missionaries of Charity, an organization that takes care of children with autism, physically and mentally challenged children as well as orphans who have been abandoned, in Old Dhaka. Bangladesh observes international mother's day on Sunday. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY)
Sister Maricor (R) and Sister Shurovi, from Missionaries of Charity, take care of abandoned children at an orphanage in Old Dhaka May 11, 2014. Sister Maricor said she has dedicated her life to caring for children with autism, physically and mentally challenged children as well as orphans who have been abandoned, since 1994 at Shishu Sadan, a children's home, in Old Dhaka. Bangladesh observes international mother's day on Sunday. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH - Tags: RELIGION HEALTH SOCIETY)
Sister Maricor, from the Missionaries of Charity, spends a moment with an autistic child at an orphanage in Old Dhaka May 11, 2014. Sister Maricor said she has dedicated her life to caring for children with autism, physically and mentally challenged children as well as orphans who have been abandoned, since 1994 at Shishu Sadan, a children's home, in Old Dhaka. Bangladesh observes international mother's day on Sunday. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH - Tags: HEALTH RELIGION SOCIETY)
A sister of the Missionaries of Charity hands out bread to injured people waiting for treatment at a makeshift hospital run by B-FAST (Belgian First Aid and Support Team) in a suburb of Port-au-Prince January 20, 2010. The sisters of the order that was founded by Mother Theresa collect the injured from the streets of the Haitian capital and bring them to the makeshift hospital for treatment. A new earthquake shook the devastated Haitian capital on Wednesday morning, creating panic among survivors of last week's devastating quake camped out in the streets but apparently causing no new destruction. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (HAITI - Tags: DISASTER SOCIETY)
A nun of the Missionaries of Charity order, founded by Mother Teresa, helps a mental patient at a missionary home in Calcutta December 5. Eight-six-year old Nobel peace laureate Mother Teresa, who founded the order in 1949 to care for the poor and destitute, is recovering from heart surgery in a Calcutta hospital.
Catholic nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, the global order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa, attend a Good Friday prayer at a church in Kolkata April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri (INDIA - Tags: RELIGION)
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KOLKATA, India, Sept 2 (Reuters) - On the eve of her canonisation as a Roman Catholic saint, and 19 years after her death, the order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta is going strong - even without her charismatic leadership.

The Missionaries of Charity gained world renown, and Mother Teresa a Nobel peace prize, by caring for the dying, the homeless and orphans gathered from the teeming streets of the city in eastern India.

They also drew criticism for propagating what one skeptic has called a cult of suffering; for failing to treat people whose lives might have been saved with hospital care; and for trying to convert the destitute to Christianity.

While staying true to their cause, the Missionaries of Charity say they have responded to their detractors.

"There is no change in our way of treating the sick and dying - we follow the same rule that Mother had introduced," said Sister Nicole, who runs the Nirmal Hriday home in the ancient district of Kalighat, the first to be set up by Mother Teresa in 1952.

The nuns no longer picked up people "randomly" off the streets, she said, and only took in the destitute at the request of police.

"Any good work will be challenged - but if the work is genuinely good it will survive such criticism and carry on to be God's true work," said Nicole.

Related: See the pope celebrate Mother Teresa with pizza:

PRAYER AND WORK

Hundreds of thousands are expected to gather in Rome on Sunday for a canonisation service led by Pope Francis, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, in front of St Peter's Basilica.

Kolkata, as the former capital of the British Raj is now called, is holding prayers, talks and cultural events. But no major ceremony is planned to mark the path to sainthood for the two miracles of healing attributed to Mother Teresa.

The low-key mood reflects an often-heated debate over religious intolerance in India, a predominantly Hindu country of 1.3 billion people.

Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said Indians felt "proud" about the canonisation, the head of a Hindu grassroots movement that supports his government provoked controversy last year by accusing Mother Teresa of seeking to convert people to Christianity. Her order denies this.

Kolkata Archbishop Thomas D'Souza played down any suggestion that Mother Teresa was not loved and respected by people of other faiths in a city that is home to 170,000 Roman Catholics.

"Mother is certainly not a goddess to them," he told Reuters. "But she is deeply venerated and people - cutting across caste, community and creed - are respectful to her work."

Related: See Mother Teresa throughout her life:

25 PHOTOS
Mother Teresa
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Mother Teresa
November 1960: Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997), the Albanian nun who dedicated her life to the poor, the destitute and the sick of Calcutta, earning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)
Mother Teresa, seen March 30, 1966, the superior-general of the Roman Catholic Missionaries of Charity, runs the Home for the Dying Destitutes in Calcutta, India. Since the home opened in 1952, some 18,000 ill persons have entered, with 8,500 dying. The rest amazingly gained strength and walked out. (AP Photo)
Mother Teresa, head of the Missionaries of Charity order, cradles an armless baby girl at her order's orphanage in Calcutta, India in 1978. A champion among the poor in India, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize Oct. 17, 1979. An Albanian, she went to India in 1928 to teach at a convent school, taking her final vows as a Roman Catholic nun in 1937, and opened her House for the Dying in 1952. Mother Teresa's devotion to the destitute children of Calcutta, lepers and other unfortunates of theworld set a new standard of compassion for humanity. She died Sept. 5, 1997, at the age of 87. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)
This is a 1979 portrait of Mother Teresa. She won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. (AP Photo)
Mother Teresa receives the Nobel Peace Prize during ceremony at Oslo University in this Dec. 10. 1979 at right is Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, professor John Sanness. (AP Photos)
Mother Teresa talks to one of the 37 children she evacuated from West Beirut at the Missionaries of Charity school in East Beirut Sunday, Aug. 15, 1982. Mother Teresa had evacuated the children from a psychiatric hospital that was damaged by Israeli shelling. (AP Photo/Alexis Duclos)
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, receives the Insignia of the Honorary Order of Merit from Queen Elizabeth II at the Rashtrapati Shavar in New Delhi, Nov. 24, 1983. (AP Photo)
Mother Teresa shaking hands with victims still suffering from the after-effects of the poison-gas disaster in Bhopal on Dec. 11, 1984 which killed more than 2,000 people. Thousands are still suffering from injuries sustained when the gas leaked from a Union Carbide manufacturing facility in Bhopal. (AP Photo)
Pope John Paul II holds his arm around Mother Teresa as they ride in the Popemobile outside the Home of the Dying in Calcutta, India, February 1986. (AP Photo)
FILE - Mother Teresa is handed the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize diploma and gold medal from the Chairman of tne Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee, John Sanness, in Oslo University Aula, in Oslo, Noway, December 10, 1979. (AP Photo/Henrik Laurvik)
Head of the Missionaries of Charity order Mother Teresa speaks at a breakfast sponsored by Miami "Right to Life," an anti-abortion group, June 28, 1986. The 75 year old nun who is a Nobel Prize winner for her work with India's poor people, said, "If you don't want the child, give it to me. I want it." (AP PHOTO/KATHY WILLENS)
Mother Teresa reaches out to bless a young baby during a stop at Casa San Martin, a feeding place for the homeless in Gallup, New Mexico, May 27, 1988. The Nobel Peace Prize winner is spending one day in New Mexico to view several missions here before heading to San Francisco. (AP PHOPTO/JEFF ROBBINS)
Nobel Peace Prize winners Mother Teresa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu meet for the first time at a formal lunch given by the mayor of Cape Town, Thursday, November 10, 1988. Mother Teresa is in Cape Town to open a new mission in the black township of Khayalitsha. (AP Photo/ADIL BRADLOW)
Mother Teresa holds her rosary during her 25-minute address at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 2, 1989. The Nobel Prize-winning head of the Missions of Charity emphasized her "Joy of Loving" theme before a crowd of 18,000. (AP Photo/Rob Schumacher)
Mother Teresa stands on the balcony of her residence and listens as the nuns from her Missionaries of Charity order sing "Happy Birthday" to her in Calcutta, India, Monday, Aug. 27, 1990. Mother Teresa was born in 1910 in Skopje, Yugoslavia. (AP Photo/Biks Das)
A New York City police officer towers over Mother Teresa of Calcutta as she walks outside St. Rita of Cascia Roman Catholic Church in the South Bronx, August 5, 1992, after attending mass. The unidentified police officer was part of a security detail for the 82 year old Nobel laureate.(AP Photo/NATASHA LANE)
Nobel Laureate and leader of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa prays in front of a picture of Mahatma Gandhi at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial in New Delhi, December 20, 1992. Prominent members of all religions gathered there to express their anguish about the destruction of a mosque in Avodhya and the resulting Hindu Muslim riots. (AP Photo)
Mother Teresa, foreground, prays during a visit to St. Mary's Cathedral in Trenton, N.J., June 18, 1995. Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun whose name became synonymous with charity for her work with "the poorest of the poor" died Friday, September 5, 1997, at the Sister of Charity's headquarters in Calcutta, India. She was 87. (AP Photo/Allen Oliver, File)
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Mother Teresa at the opening of the Mother Teresa Home for Infant Children June 19, 1995, in Washington. Mrs. Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation to the state funeral of Mother Teresa, the White House announced Monday, Sept. 8, 1997. (AP Photo/White House)
Mother Teresa receives a bouquet of flowers and congratulations from schoolgirls on her 85th birthday celebrated at the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta Saturday Aug. 26, 1995. (AP Photo / Bikas Das)
Mother Teresa waves at wellwishers, as she is released from the Woodlands nursing home in Calcutta, Wednesday, September 25, 1996, after a scan showed that the blood clot in her brain has dissolved. Mother had developed a clot after she fell down from a chair on September 16, 1996. She was released from the hospital earlier this month after two weeks of treatment for malaria, chest pain and cardiac problems. (AP Photo/Bikash Das)
Mother Teresa in a wheelchair, prays at the Missionaries of Charity chapel on Tuesday, in this Sept.10, 1996, photo as she celebrated the 50th anniversary of the order she founded in Calcutta. The Sisters of Charity in Rome said Friday Sept. 5, 1997 that Mother Teresa has died, she was 87. (AP Photo)
Mother Teresa holds the resolutions of honorary American citizenship after they were presented to her by American ambassador to India Frank G. Wisner at the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta Saturday, Nov. 16, 1996. (AP Photo/str)
Mother Teresa folds her hands in a traditional Indian form of greeting while leaving the B.M. Birla hospital in Calcutta Thursday, Dec. 19, 1996. The 86-year old Nobel Peace Prize laureate spent three weeks in the hospital, much of it in critical condition with heart problems and complications. At her left is one of her doctors, Patricia Aubanel.(AP Photo/Bikas Das)
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The everyday work of the Missionaries of Charity goes on, meanwhile.

On a recent day at the spartan Kalighat home, male inmates with shaven heads and wearing green uniforms lay on bunks. Women ate in a canteen while others were cared for by volunteers.

One inmate, a man of about 40 called Saregama, had just died.

"Saregama died with dignity and care," said Sister Nicole. "We prayed for him."

The number of homes that the Missionaries of Charity run has grown to nearly 750 in India and abroad, from the 600 that Mother Teresa left when she died in 1997.

At Mother House, her old headquarters down a narrow lane, the mood was one of silent prayer. Inside, a notice still hung on the wall saying: "Time to see Mother Teresa: 9 am to 12 noon/3 pm to 6 pm. Thursday closed."

Mother House still attracts visitors to India like Pedro Afonso, a lawyer from Brazil who had come with a friend for evening mass. He gave thanks for the miracles that will bring sainthood to Mother Teresa and said that, in Kolkata, she "had chosen the right place for her work and charity.

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