Students at Fordham remembered the late Mother Teresa who was canonized on Sept. 4, becoming Saint Teresa of Kolkata. 19 years after her death, Pope Francis recognized the Roman Catholic nun for her lifelong dedication to the betterment of society’s outcasts. Members of the Fordham community, too, recognized Mother Teresa for the role she played in their lives, and how her legacy continues on campus.
Pierre Bourgeois, a second year graduate student of Fordham’s theology department, shared a personal connection with Mother Teresa and her organization in India. Bourgeois wen tto Calcutta following his high school graduation in 1995 to work for her organization, the Missionaries of Charity.
“I went to work in one of two houses for the sick and dying, Prem Dan or Kalighat, wherein patients suffered from all kinds of maladies that afflict the poor,” he told The Fordham Ram in an interview. His daily tasks included bathing patients, feeding them and giving them water, but his job allowed him to work directly with Mother Teresa herself. He described his most significant encounter with her was that first meeting, the day I arrived.
“Mother Teresa told me that my most important job would be to love the patients,” Bourgeois said.
In the United States, the Missionaries of Charity was first established in the South Bronx. Today, the facility continues to operate and assist those who need it, such as individuals who have contracted diseases, or are facing hunger or homelessness.
In Washington D.C, at the Missionaries of Charity facility where nuns are sent during the final stages of training, former Fordham theology professor, Susan Feeley, continues to work. Feeley was enlisted by Mother Teresa more than 40 years ago to teach the nuns English. Feeley’s work as a coordinator for the 50 volunteers was profiled in a Washington Post article.
Bourgeois accredits Mother Teresa for the reason behind many of his life choices. “My confrontations with unimaginable human suffering and dehumanizing poverty, as well as my encounter with radical Christian love, have directly impacted every decision I’ve made since.”
In January, the community service organization on campus, Global Outreach, will lead a group of students to Kolkata for the duration of 10 days. Andrew Friedman, the project leader, said the group will work closely with the Missionaries of Charity, the organization Mother Teresa founded in Kolkata, India.
“We will work at various sites throughout the city alongside the missionaries, ranging from homes for orphaned children to homes that care for the sick and the dying,” Friedman said. “We also plan to immerse ourselves in Indian culture to examine some of the social justice issues and the roots of various social and economic injustices that exist in the country.”
Mother Teresa’s work earned her the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, but she has received her fair share of harsh judgement.
“Critics say that Mother Teresa, to some extent, glorified poverty, particularly in Kolkata,” Friedman said. “But I think that her mission displays her bravery in caring for those in need — both physically and spiritually through love. It is important to recognize the reality of the world, and while the problems are daunting, Mother Teresa simply started at square one — through simple acts of love and kindness, she began her journey.”