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Missionaries of Charity


An international congregation of religious women, the Missionaries of Charity have as their primary ministry the service of "the poorest of the poor" irrespective of caste, creed, and nationality. Their headquarters are located in Calcutta, India, where the congregation was founded by Mother Teresa Bojaxhiu. The foundation was approved as a diocesan congregation in 1950 and made a pontifical institute in 1965. The distinctive habit of the Missionaries of Charity, made famous by Mother Teresa, consists of a white cotton sari with a blue border that covers the head, a cincture made of rope, sandals, a crucifix, and rosary. The sisters nurse sick and dying destitutes, including victims of AIDS; teach street children; visit and care for beggars, lepers, and their children; and provide shelter for the abandoned and homeless. They foster special devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and proclaim the Word of God to the spiritually destitute by their presence and the spiritual works of mercy.

In March 1997 the congregation elected Sister Nirmala and a council of four sisters to succeed Mother Teresa, who had asked to be relieved of administrative duties because of her poor health. At the time of Sister Nirmala's election, the order had some 4,500 nuns working in more than 100 countries.

See Also: mother teresa of calcutta.

Bibliography: d. doig, Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work (San Francisco 1976). m. muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God, 2d ed. (San Francisco 1986).

[b. l. marthaler]

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