China: the unfulfilled dream of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa passed away on September 5 1997. On the 17th anniversary of that day, her nuns are still steadfast in the hope of opening a Missionaries of Charity house in mainland China.

Sep 11, 2014

KOLKATA: Mother Teresa passed away on September 5 1997. On the 17th anniversary of that day, her nuns are still steadfast in the hope of opening a Missionaries of Charity house in mainland China.

“We are ready to open a home there, but we have to wait to be invited,” the congregation’s Superior General Sister Prema told ucanews.com this week.

They have been waiting a long time. If and when their hope is truly realized, it will at last fulfill a dream that was deeply cherished by their saintly founder and among her highest priorities, for she mentioned it many times throughout her life.

Mother Teresa visited the country three times throughout the 1980s and 90s. On the last of these trips in 1993, as an invited guest of the family of former leader Deng Xiaoping, it was widely thought that she was there to pave the way for a visit by Pope John Paul II.

But it is also clear that she devoted much of her formidable energy on that wildly successful trip to opening a house where her congregation could offer the aid and succour to “the poorest of the poor” that it is known for.

A report on that visit in ucanews.com stated that she was “confident” of getting the required permission. After all, the congregation was now operating houses all over the former Communist bloc, including 15 in the former Soviet Union and one in East Berlin. A house in China seemed like nothing more than the next logical step.

But it was not to be. In a story that is possibly apocryphal, it is said that a Chinese official told her at the time that the country did not have any poor people.

Perhaps the disappointment preyed on her mind; she was not used to being frustrated in her aims. In the last few months before she died, upon the appointment of her successor Sister Nirmala Joshi, she made an immediate point of expressing the hope that the new leader would take the congregation into China. Yet again, this aspiration remained unrealized.

But then in 2005, a full eight years after her passing, there came a bright and unexpected ray of hope: the Chinese government invited Sister Nirmala and a group of nuns and priests to Beijing. The visit was widely reported in the Chinese media, which gave a strong indication that the government was looking on it most favorably.

Sister Nirmala even claimed at the time that the invitation positively stated that the opening of a house would be discussed. She attributed the sudden possibility and China's apparent change of mood to “work that Mother Teresa is doing from heaven.”

Buoyed by the warm reception they received, and as advised by a Chinese priest, the sisters duly wrote a formal letter requesting permission to open a home. That letter has never been answered.

However, there has been some degree of progress. After Mother Teresa's beatification in 2003, the Evangelic Association of Mother Teresa was established in China, as a lay movement.--ucanews.com

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