The Church Column with Father Michael Sellers

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Probably the most well known Catholic of the 20th century was Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

She is due to be canonised this month so it might be of interest to remind ourselves of her life.

St Mary and Joseph Catholic Church, Pocklington.

St Mary and Joseph Catholic Church, Pocklington.

Mother Teresa’s name was Agnes and she was born in what is now Macedonia, although at the time it was part of the crumbling Ottoman empire.

From an early age she had a desire to be a missionary in India; at the age of 19 she joined a congregation of sisters who ran schools and was sent to teach in Calcutta.

For 20 years she worked and prayed, but always had a longing for something more. Beyond the relative seclusion of a girls school there was terrible poverty in the city.

She asked permission to take a radical step out of the convent, she felt drawn to care for the poorest of the poor.

Using the skills she already had Mother Teresa set about teaching the children on the streets and in the slums to read and write, as a way to give them a start in life and free them from the caste system.

In 1950 she attracted other women who admired her straightforward and practical faith in action.

She was able to found her own congregation of sisters called the Missionaries of Charity; their religious garb was the sari used by ordinary women, in white and blue, which has become so iconic.

Mother Teresa saw poverty and sickness everywhere. She realised that she could not solve these problems. But so many of the poor and sick felt rejected and useless and this was the tragedy which Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity could do something about.

With the help of her supporters and the permission of the authorities she would pick up the destitute from the streets, giving them shelter and food as well as compassion and care until they died. Abandoned babies would be taken in and found loving homes. Those with diseases would be treated.

The life of Mother Teresa was driven by her belief that God loves ever human being, and when they are considered useless by others we should go out of our way to show love generously.

May we continue to be inspired by her example and, to use her words ‘spread love wherever you go’.