On September 10, 1946, Jesus asked Mother Teresa to found the Missionaries of Charity. In January, 1948, Mother Teresa received approval from the local Archbishop to pursue the new calling. On August 17, 1948, clad in a white blue-bordered saree, Mother Teresa walked past the gate of the convent to enter the world of poor. The white sari-like religious habit of the Missionaries of Charity has three blue stripes. Blue is the colour of Mary and the three stripes represent the Holy Trinity.
Mother Teresa’s first outing was on December 21, 1948 to help the people in the slums. She began each day with Holy Communion, and then went out, rosary in her hand, to find and serve Jesus in “the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for.” After some months, she was joined, one by one, by her former students.
With financial help from the people, Mother Teresa started an open air school. She also established a home for the dying and destitute in a dilapidated home, which she convinced the government to donate to her.
On 7 October 1950 the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity received official status as a religious community within the Archdiocese of Calcutta. Members took the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, with an additional fourth vow— whole-hearted free service to the poorest of the poor.
By 1960, the Missionaries of Charity had opened several hospices, orphanages and leper houses all over India. From 1963 to 1981, Mother Teresa founded several communities to better response to both the spiritual and material needs of the poor. She founded the Missionaries of Charity Brothers in 1963, in 1976 the contemplative branch of the Sisters, in 1979 the Contemplative Brothers, and in 1984 the Missionaries of Charity Fathers. For lay people, she formed the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa and the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers. Later on, the Lay Missionaries of Charity was formed. In answer to the requests of many priests, in 1981 Mother Teresa also began the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests as a “little way of holiness” for those who desire to share in her spirit and charism.
The constitution of the Missionaries of Charity states: “The spirit of our society is one of loving trust, total surrender and cheerfulness as lived by Jesus and His mother.”
The Missionaries of Charity nurture “loving trust” in God by spending time in prayer, daily and punctually. They wake up early in the morning for prayer, spiritual reading, and meditation. The missionaries centre their lives on the Holy Eucharist, daily Mass, and holy hour. The Sisters always set out to their work in pairs and say the Rosary as they go.
We empty ourselves in order to be filled with God’s grace. The Missionaries of Charity empty themselves by living a life of utmost simplicity. Each sister has only three saris (one to wear, one to wash, and one to mend), a pair of sandals, two sets of underclothes, a rosary, a small crucifix, a metal spoon, a rimmed plate, a canvas bag, and a prayer book. They sit on chapel floors, wash their clothes by hand, and sleep on thin mattresses.
A joyful person preaches without preaching and is like the sunshine of God’s love. The constitution of the Missionaries of Charity states: “The best way to show our gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy.”
Mother Teresa pointed out that the reason why the Sisters are always smiling is that they are not just social workers, but contemplatives in the heart of the world.