Photo of Sr. Prema by ZENIT's Deborah Castellano Lubov

FEATURE: Sr. Prema: 'Mother Teresa Was Icon of Unity'

During Briefing on Canonization, Leader of Missionaries of Charities Tells ZENIT How Soon-to-be Canonized Saint Showed Christianity as Religion of Peace

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“Mother Teresa has been an icon of unity, tolerance, acceptance, and of loving each person.”
Sr. Mary Prema Pierick, the current Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious institute founded by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, said this to ZENIT in the Vatican this morning. She was responding to how the figure of Mother Teresa of Calcutta can help make India understand that Christianity is a religion of peace as often times in the country, there is religious intolerance toward minorities and Christians.
The German nun noted how loved Mother Teresa was: “We saw this at her funeral. Everyone was there,” she said, noting how faithful of  other religions are drawn to Mother’s selfless example.
“India has a love and great respect for Mother,” she said, smiling. “Everyone saw the sanctity, even in their own religious concept.”
The sister stressed how Mother Teresa’s legacy still can actively bring together those who otherwise could have remained indifferent.
Sister Prema was one of those speaking at the briefing this morning in the Holy See Press Office. In her intervention, she noted how she met Mother Teresa in 1980 and how impressed she was by her, and how touched she was to have received the crucifix from her.
“She was our mother and teacher,” she said, adding, “she lived religious life with so much joy and enthusiasm that we all wanted to be close to her.”
Turning to how down-to-earth Mother Teresa was, Sr. Prema shared with the journalists how Mother shared the dormitory with the other sisters, always had meals together with them, and never would tolerate being treated differently than the others.
“She never accepted anything that was not the same for the other sisters,” Sr. Prema said, noting, “She loved us and continues to bring us closer.”
“She never did anything to lead others to herself, but only to Jesus and Mary,” she said. “Mother’s love for Jesus was put into action.”
“Even in old age,” Sr. Prema recalled, “she tried to be the first one in the chapel to show Jesus how much she loved him.”
Speaking on how Mass always empowered Mother, the Superior General noted how after Mass, Mother was always there to take on whatever needed to be done.
“She guided us in how to live in a practical way the high demands of total surrender and trust, always with a smile,”
“I believe Mother’s smile was her gift to Jesus and the world,” she said noting how in the midst of the sadness in the world today, people need joy and hope.
The sister highlighted the soon-to-be canonized saint’s obedience, noting, “If a doctor prescribed medicine, she took it like an obedient child.”
Speaking on Mother’s vision of the world and people, she explained that “everyone is infinitely loved by God, and that everyone is meant to love and be loved.”
Sr. Prema noted how Mother Teresa was insightful and was very aware that without people realizing their own worth and being loved by God, they would not be at peace.
Her true poverty, sharing the pain with those around her, was another distinguishing mark of Mother. This legacy inspires the Missionaries of Charity to fulfill their mission.
Rather than one saying that “she loved the people of Calcutta,” Sr. Prema explained, it would be more correct to say, “She loved the individual sufferer and wanted to make a difference in each individual’s life.”

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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