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Mother Teresa
Sisters in the order she founded say Mother Teresa "returned home" 10 years agoImage: AP

Remembering Mother Teresa

September 5, 2007

Mother Teresa's followers don't refer to her passing on Sept. 5. 1997 as death, rather they see it as a celebration. Ten years on it will be a day of thanksgiving her Missionaries of Charity will share with the poor.

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Mother Teresa of Calcutta was well-known for her charitable work in India but her order, the Missionaries of Charity, can be found across the world. In Germany the Missionaries have centers in seven cities to help those in need. On the 10th anniversary of her death, a collection of Mother Teresa's writings has also been published.

DW-WORLD.DE: What activities are planned for Sept. 5, the 10th anniversary of Mother Teresa's death?

Missionaries of Charity: For us it’s a feast because we know that Mother went to heaven. We call it going home, we don’t call it death because it's not the end. She died with Christ so she will be with Him now.

Where we have soup kitchens or where we are going to see the poor and we have feasts linked to Mother’s feast it's always an expression of an extra love so we have some special sweets, some special foods, some special attention for the poor to make them happy, to give them a share of that happiness.

But the main thing is that it is spiritual, that we talk about, that we share, that give an impulse on how we can all follow, how we can all become a saint when we do these little things with great love.

Mother Teresa was known for the work that she did in India. What is the work of the Missionaries of Charity in Germany?

A woman receives a plate of food at a soup kitchen
Mother Teresa's order works in seven German citiesImage: dpa

We focus on what Mother called the "leprosy of the West" -- that is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared. In this group of poverty we have people who have no work, who have depression or people who are outside the family structure, broken families.

We have the groups who abuse alcohol. We have prostitutes, we have drug addicts. We help people who have nobody and nowhere to turn. Sometimes we also go to prison to visit. So it's a wide variety.

Sometimes we make spontaneous trips and we find people. It's a kind of attraction -- the poor are attracted to us and we are attracted to them so we find each other. And usually we just have to look out for where there is darkness, the loneliness, the sadness, the depression, the person who nobody bothers. Who is somewhere sitting in a corner and nobody speaks to them.

We speak to them without any reason to give them their dignity back. There comes times when they say "nobody asked me how I am for years," or "nobody asks my name." These are the main activities that we do.

Has it been difficult to get donations?

The Missionaries of Charity pray together
Roman Catholic nuns and sisters of the Missionaries of Charity pray in CalcuttaImage: AP

No, because the people know about poverty and they know about the poor and they know that we give to the poor so it will not be a problem.

People are very good, people are very generous and I don't speak just about material help but also those who give their time, those who help us be it medics, be it advocates, architects whatever, there are so many good people who come forward.

What can we learn most from the work and the teachings of Mother Teresa?

The main thing we can learn from her is how to love. She used the verse "love one another as I have loved you" and understood that very well.

There was a tremendous example in her of how to love. That was her charity, which she did not stop just by giving or by doing but it was an expression of love towards Christ. She said, "Love 'til it hurts." It was a total gift of self which she lived to the fullest, and so I think that is the main teaching.

What was it like to work with Mother Teresa?

Souvenir pins with the image of Mother Teresa on display in Rome shops
Mother Teresa's image can bee seen everywhere -- including in souvenir shopsImage: AP

I had the chance to meet her and to be with her and to work with her and that is a great grace. The main thing was just to see that in that moment when you were with her, or any person, the poorest or the richest, if it is a president or if it's a poor child in the street, regardless of who it was, that person in that moment counted.

Mother never had the view of the crowd, it was always that one-to-one look. That was something very, very striking about Mother -- that expression of love that was unique.

Stephanie Raison interviewed a sister with the Missionaries of Charity in Berlin.

[Editors note: Members of the Missionaries of Charity are not allowed to give personal interviews. Instead, they speak on behalf of the Order on the condition of anonymity.]

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