Good Afternoon! Yes, you read the title correctly. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was known and loved by many all over the world, but not everyone knows the extent of work that she did. Her primary focus of justice was for the poor. She also founded The Missionaries of Charity which was her primary ministry. This ministry provided soup kitchens, dispensaries, mobile clinics, children’s and family counseling programs, orphanages, and schools. Many do not know that her ministry also provided aid and support for people with leprosy, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta actually established more than one AIDS hospice center during the 1980s, including one in Greenwich Village.
St. Mother Teresa received both accolades and criticism during her life, but overall, she was highly regarded for her service to vulnerable people. Amazingly, there is a book about her life and service within a set of leveled readers I use with my students called Raz Kids. Even though this is a secular set of books, Raz Kids honors her life. You can read more about it here. The Raz Kids book titled “Mother Teresa” by Jennifer Dobner starts off with a famous quote, “Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.” This book is divided into four main sections, “Mother Teresa,” “From Agnes to Teresa,” “A Day of Inspiration,” and “Her Work Goes On.” The section “Mother Teresa” speaks about her Catholic upbringing and the basic work that nuns do. “From Agnes to Teresa” speaks of her childhood. Her father died when she was only 8 years old. The first name Agnes became Teresa when she entered consecrated religious life at age 18. In the section titled, “A Day of Inspiration,” it speaks of her teaching in a Catholic school in India and then becoming the principal of that school. She later went to work with people in poverty and then on to open medical clinics. She then started receiving high honors for her work that I mentioned below, including postage stamps with her face of them. In 1962, Mother Teresa received the Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. In 1985, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. Mother Teresa died at age 87 in 1997. On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis canonized her as a saint.
During Pride Month, I have honored the key anti-Nazi martyrs, but I didn’t want to leave out St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta even though her time of life and service came later. Some of her actions would combat the threat of fascism today. She certainly would alleviate economic woes and anxieties and reduce a disdain for human rights that part of the right wing tries to perpetuate. She would have reduced in the current disdain of LGBTQIA+ people.
As I said in my podcast interview with Laura recently, it is very hard to be an openly affirming ally, an “out-provider,” and be openly Catholic at-once. But since LGBTQ+ affirmation is about the Sanctity of Life and Human Dignity, this is why I feel I can be all three at-once. I think this is maybe why Mother Teresa felt she could establish AIDS hospice centers. Since the Catholic Church teaches that all lives are equally-sacred, then civil rights shouldn’t be dismissed. Civil rights which honor the lives and well-being of all people must be protected.