Missionaries of Charity embrace their calling
By Nathan Rumohr
The Missionaries of Charity vow, wholeheartedly, to give to the poorest of the poor. That task requires many adjustments, as many sisters are reassigned frequently.
"Sometimes a sister has a special skill, and this makes it necessary for her to move," said Sister Aloysita, who, with fellow Missionaries of Charity Sisters Chaudrika, Rossella, and Hema, the superior, make up the Missionaries of Charity community on Cordova Street in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
The four sisters have been in Vancouver for less than six months, but even though they are not as acquainted with the city as many diocesan priests or members of other orders of religious sisters, the Missionaries of Charity make sure they are a presence in the community.
"If they accept us we go," said Sister Hema. "If they open the door, we're in. Some days we knock on many doors and only one or two will answer. Maybe they won't open the door, but we pray for them as we pass by."
The sisters actively look for new places to assist in spreading the Good News of Jesus. Sometimes their efforts for good are unwelcome by organizations, but their efforts continue despite the hardships.
The sisters visit sick patients at St. Paul's Hospital, help the poor in B.C. Housing, and serve sandwiches and hot dogs once a week at Oppenheimer Park. Corpus Christi parishioners who assist them said the sisters are there rain or shine. Many Downtown Eastside residents also appreciate the sisters' efforts.
"Seeing things like this brings joy to my heart," commented Manny, a resident of the area.
Although the Missionaries of Charity are known throughout the world as helpers of the poor, the sisters also give back to their Church community. They teach PREP at Corpus Christi and St. Joseph's Parishes in Vancouver. They also run a two-week summer camp in July at Corpus Christi Parish.
"A lot of the children may spend their summers playing video games," said Sister Aloysita. "This may be their only summer camp (experience)."
The summer camp, which caters to children ages 6 to 12, involves sports, arts and crafts, and spiritual ministry. The sisters invite teenagers who have attended the camp in previous years to assist them, and they invite priests to hear confessions.
The sisters live a disciplined life. They wake up every day at 4:40 a.m. and join in Morning Prayer at 5 a.m. They participate in Mass at 6 or 7 a.m., depending on the availability of a priest. The sisters do not sit in chairs during Mass in their convent chapel, but instead sit humbly on the floor.
Unfortunately, because of a shortage of priests in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, the sisters often have to travel for their morning Mass. They can be seen frequently at the 7:15 a.m. or 8 a.m. Masses at Holy Rosary Cathedral.
After working in the community the sisters return to the convent at 12 p.m. for prayer and lunch. They go back out to serve the community at 2:30 p.m. They return home for the day at 5:30 p.m. for a Holy Hour at 6. After dinner, during recreation time, the sisters talk about how Jesus worked within their day.
The Missionaries of Charity made a foundation at Corpus Christi Parish in 1988 after Mother Teresa's historic visit to Vancouver. The sisters relocated to Cordova Street, in St. Paul's Parish, after the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement left the area last year because of a lack of vocations.
The move was bittersweet for the archdiocese, as the Franciscans had served the area for 85 years. But during his homily last September on the feast of Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, found a silver lining in the move.
"If I dare say, I can well imagine that Mother is looking down approvingly at your decision to be in closer physical proximity to the 'poorest of the poor' here in the Downtown Eastside," he said. "To celebrate her feastday with this change in location is a great grace for all of us."