National Vocations Awareness Week
Sister Marie Joel, MC, talks about the St. Teresa exhibition with visitors.
RAÚL AYRALA/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Missionaries of Charity form Sisters in San Francisco
Among the artifacts in the Mother Teresa exhibit that visited the Cathedral of Christ the Light earlier this month is a copy of the letter Gonxha Bojaxhiu wrote, at age 18, to the superior of the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland, seeking permission to enter the order.
It was in Ireland that she was given the name, Sister Mary Teresa.
Twenty years later, when she answered the "call within a call" to serve the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity. Young women joined her in her community.
How do young women in the United States today enter the Missionaries of Charity?
They write a letter.
But first there is the call from the Lord, said Sister H. Steffi Jose, MC, who is one of the four novice mistresses with the Missionaries of Charity in San Francisco.
"This call can come in many different ways," she said, as she visited the exhibit on Oct. 9 with the novices, dressed in all white, who will take their vows this December.
"Some, from childhood, feel a great love for the Lord," Sister Steffie Jose said. For some, it comes during the teenage years.
For others, the call comes later, the result she said, of a "radical shift in their life."
Having experienced a life of a job, a car and living on their own, she said, they are drawn to something more.
"They want the joy of the sacrifice," Sister Steffie Jose said. "Young people are looking for something to believe in," she said.
They find it in Jesus. "They embrace the love of Jesus in the poor," she said.
There are three communities of Missionaries of Charity in the United States: in the Bronx, New York; in St. Louis, Missouri; and in San Francisco.
Prospective sisters write to the superior of the city closet to them. The letters begin a conversation that could include a "come and see" visit for two weeks in the Midwest. After that visit, the woman is directed to go home and continue discerning. The discernment continues for the Sisters, too.
The pre-aspirancy period begins in the Midwest for one year. After that year, the aspirant is posted to Mexico, where she will experience what Sister Steffie Jose called "a different type of poverty." These experiences prepare her for the next step: the novitiate.
The first year at the novitiate in San Francisco is spent in prayer. In the second year, the novice experiences the life of the missionary.
At the end of her second year in the novitiate, she is prepared to take her vows.
In San Francisco, seven women will take their vows in December at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.
They will receive their new habits — white, with blue stripes, and new assignment as a missionary.
At each transition, the hopefuls write letters.
A first letter, indicating interest in learning more about the Missionaries of Charity, would be addressed to:
Novitiate of the Missionaries of Charity
312 29th St.
San Francisco, CA 94131
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