Seventy-five years after Mother Teresa launched her full-time service to the poor in a shelter in the distressed Entally neighborhood of Kolkata, the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, has announced that it finally secured ownership of the property.
Although the young Mother Teresa arrived in Kolkata as a Sisters of Loreto missionary in 1928, it was twenty years later when she dedicated herself full-time to the service of the poor and abandoned living in slums around the order’s house in Entally, using a building she came to call the “home of the pure heart,” or Nirmal Hriday.
Although her followers in the Missionaries of Charity have cared for the facility ever since, due to issues related to zoning and occupancy they were only able to secure legal ownership of the property recently.
The legal tangles were resolved, according to media reports, on the initiative of a local member of India’s parliament.
“It is a beautiful gesture by the state government to facilitate handing over this place to us,” said Mother Teresa’s successor as superior of the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Mary Joseph Michael.
“Like Saint Teresa, who is revered as Mother by one and all, we the sisters can live here and serve the poor which is our mission,” said Sister Mary Joseph Michael, a native to India’s Kerala state who was elected to her post last year.
She recalled the three years between 2016 and 2019 when she lived in the Nirmal Hriday House and served the poor like Mother Teresa.
“These three years had been the most defining moments of my life and consolidated the course of my future journey to serve humanity forever,” she said.
The Motijheel slum where the house is located has undergone drastic changes in appearance over the years, according to locals, with multi-storied buildings now soaring next to older rundown shacks. Sister Joseph said that following the example of Mother Teresa, the Missionaries of Charity have never ceased serving the slum.
“I have countless memories, one being my encounter with an ailing little boy with a hump on his back,” she said. “As I would go and touch him and talk, his face would light up, his pain seemed to go. His family members told me how much he looked forward to meet me.”
“Many a time I felt Mother is standing on my side as I came to the service of these suffering, bedridden people,” she said.
At the moment, four Missionaries of Charity nuns are living in the Nirmal Hriday House, which sits on roughly a half-acre of land.
A cultural performance followed the public announcement, as the superior general and other guests were greeted with the chanting of “happy coming to our place” by poor children of nearby slums who are taught and given vocation training by the Missionaries of Charity nuns wo live in the house.
Derek O’Brien, the member of parliament who assisted the sisters in acquiring the property, said it’s important moment as “we are revisiting the time when Mother Teresa first came to this city and started her mission to be on the side of the poor and suffering from here.”
Speaking to Crux, a Missionary of Charity who celebrated her Golden Jubilee, marking fifty years of service, at the house on April 22, recalled her time there.
“As novices, we visited the Motijheel slums very often together with Mother,” said Sister Medard. “It’s is not too far away from her Loreto convent. We would visit the slums, teach children and also help in health care, taking sick to hospitals, and so on. Recently we have a small convent there. As part of our Golden Jubilee celebrations, we went on a pilgrimage to Motijheel and other places deeply connected with our Mother.”