The words and actions of Mother Teresa and their impact on individuals throughout Surrey has been documented in this project. You can find the broad themes of her message organised here (Christ’s love in the home, Poverty in an affluent society, and the Priest’s role in Surrey), or follow the links below for the testimonies in full.
Today in the West there is little love in many homes and family life. People have little time for their children or for each other. This is why there is so much suffering in marriage and families in our world today. We need to make homes places of compassion, endless forgiveness and mercy.
A living love hurts. Jesus, to prove his love for us died on the Cross. The mother, to give birth to her child, has to suffer: if you really love one another properly, there must be sacrifice.
Susie Kerr: The Missionaries of Charity had a house in Southall where they ran a soup kitchen, and Mother Teresa came over to visit. This was when Mother Teresa went out and saw the poverty on the streets in London. And she was appalled, thinking here we are getting donations and trying to help the street people in Calcutta when there’s actually a problem in London.
So when she came to London she dispensed with all this fundraising and adoption. She said you look after your family number one, you look after your neighbour number two. And that’s it. That was her message for us over here who she thought, we don’t look after each other, we don’t stay together as families do we, like they do in India? That was what she was sad about. She said we in India may be poor, but we’re not poor in spirit. And she felt that we were poor in spirit over here. There, there were always the grandparents, or the aunties and uncles, someone to look after all the little children. Everybody worked together and looked after each other. Whereas here kids go into child-care; mummy goes to work; grandparents go into homes… that was not her way of living.
Despite your Welfare State in England, I see poor people living, sleeping under the bridges in London. I have seen people dying unloved. Poverty here is different to our poverty. Here you have a poverty of loneliness and being unwanted. You may have rich people who have no one to visit them . Don’t be content with giving money. Lonely people want your hearts to love them.
Archbishop Michael Bowen: When Mother Teresa left the Loreto and started up her own thing, she was working with the poorest of the poor. It was just a question of trying to show that they were loved at that stage and they had someone to care for them.
This message affected me personally very strongly when I first started as a priest working in Earlsfield in South London and in Woolworth where we had huge homes for old folk: Victorian workhouses that had been converted to use as homes. They were just these huge dormitories with dozens and dozens of beds and there was only about that much between one bed and the other. There was a little locker for all your personal items and then there was another bed.
And people went there, basically to die, in those days- when they could no longer live in their own homes. As a newly ordained priest, I was there as a chaplain looking after these people. And sometimes you’d get someone who had six children and they hadn’t heard from any of their children for years and years and no one came when they died. No one came to their funeral. When I had to bury them they were on their own.
What Mother Teresa was saying about Calcutta and what was happening – I could see it very strongly in our society. She was very conscious that in our more, perhaps, developed countries we have a national health service and various kinds of homes. There they get a bed and get fed and there’s heating. So there’s a tendency with people to say, oh well we don’t have to worry about our grandma or grandpa because they’re being looked after by the state, and that relieves us of having to do anything about it – and that is quite wrong.
So I was very affected by the things she said about loneliness and the need to care and support to give, and not to think of the state as taking over all that side of human life.
Your peoples’ problems lie deep at the bottom of their hearts…
Mgr Barry Wymes: After discussing working as a priest in South America or India, Mother Teresa then went on to contrast her work as opposed to the working in “Leafy Surrey”.
She described her work and that of her Sisters as being relatively easy compared with the challenge facing priests and religious in Surrey and Sussex.
“You have asked how I would see the work of the Missionaries of Charity if I were a Priest or Sister in Surrey or Sussex. The mission of the Church in your diocese is much more challenging . Our peoples’ problems in India, Yemen or wherever are relatively easy to solve. We see Jesus in each one of the poorest of the poor. We take the needy into our hospices, wash them, dress their wounds, give them a bowl of rice, a cuddle and tell them that they are wanted and that God loves them.
Your peoples’ problems lie deep at the bottom of their hearts….running her finger down her chest. They are problems to do with wanting more and more money, problems with regard to sexuality, marriage and family breakdown. These are big problems which will stay at the bottom of their hearts unless and until they see in you something of God. They will not see anything of God in you unless you are a man of compassion and prayer. Go away, be a man of prayer. Then your peoples’ problems will emerge and you will have a real mission in Surrey and Sussex.