A Dominican in Kolkata
January 29, 2013
A Dominican in Kolkata
By Fr. Gregory Schnakenberg, OP
Part of the adventure of belonging to the Order of Preachers is sharing in its mission to preach the Gospel to all the world. And, in fact, one is sometimes called upon or invited to preach the Faith in the most unexpected of places. Recently, I had such an experience when I received a request on behalf of the Missionaries of Charity, who were in need of a teacher for a ten-day class on the Eucharist, at their house in Kolkata, India. Few Catholics religious communities are more well-known than the Missionaries of Charity, having been founded by Bl. Mother Teresa in 1950 to serve “the poorest of the poor.” Their distinctive blue and white sari (a traditional Indian form of dress) makes them immediately recognizable wherever they serve. Headquartered in Kolkata, the sisters carry out their mission in one hundred and thirty-three countries throughout the world. The Missionaries are sustained in their work with the poor and dying by the regular celebration of the Mass and an intense life of prayer. At the same time, to help the sisters who have lived their vows for many years to grow further in their love for God, a special spirituality year enables them deepen their knowledge about various topics in the Catholic Faith. This program is held at their house called Shanti Dan (house of peace) in the Tangra section of Kolkata, India. To assist the Missionaries of Charity in their mission, the Dominican Friars have frequently offered to celebrate Mass, preach retreats, or, as in this case, to teach a class as part of their spirituality year. Although I was invited to Kolkata to teach, I could not help but learn a great deal about the poverty and illness that so many suffer in the developing world. Likewise, seeing the Missionaries care for the suffering was an unrivaled education in charity. With the Missionaries, one truly learns how to recognize and serve Christ in the poor and the dying. Although one might expect these places to be difficult to visit, the sisters’ joy was contagious. At Shishu Bhavan, an orphanage operated by the sisters in Kolkata, neither the children nor the volunteers ever lacked for smiles. Yet another highlight of the trip was visiting Bl. Mother Teresa’s tomb, located at the sisters’ Motherhouse, which has become a place of pilgrimage for many in India and beyond. The Missionaries and the friars have been graced with different charisms in the life of the Church, but that is precisely what enables us to work together so fruitfully in the service of Christ. It was truly pleasure to spend a few weeks with them as coworkers in the Lord’s vineyard. Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!