Servant of God Mother Teresa of St. Rose of Lima
The entire life of Mother Teresa whom we honour today revolves around her own words “We must try to give practical effect to the prayer we repeat so often in the day. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done. (Letter, 15 January 1894). This was the foundation of her heroic degree of charity towards the poor and the marginalized.
Mother Teresa of St. Rose of Lima was born on January 29, 1858 to Peter D’Lima and Mary D’Lima at George Town in Madras, India. She was christened as Mary Grace and was nurtured by loving parents in a religious atmosphere. Her mother died when Grace was very young, Peter D’ Lima married second time and was blessed with three children - two girls and one boy. Grace was sent to the Presentation nuns at George Town, Madras, where she received quality education and excellent training that fitted her for her future apostolate. On completion of the General Education Test for School Mistresses in 1875 she joined the staff of St. Xavier’s Free School, George Town, Madras, where her father was the Headmaster.
In the year 1879 Grace arrived at Alleppey, Kerala, and took charge as the Head mistress of St Joseph school at the request of Fr. Alphonsus O.C.D, the parish priest of Mt. Carmel Church, Alleppey. This turned out to be a milestone in Grace’s life. The life of intense prayer, sacrifice and missionary zeal of the Carmelite Fathers at Alleppey inspired Grace to dedicate her whole self to God and so in May 1882 she was received as a Postulant by Fr. Candidus O.C.D. She received formation directly from the Carmelite fathers. On April 29th 1883 she was vested and given the name - Sr. Teresa of St. Rose of Lima. In the year 1885 on 25th May, Sr. Teresa made her religious Profession as a Carmelite Tertiary at St. Joseph’s Convent Alleppey.
As a result of the re-organisation of the ecclesiastical divisions (by Rome under Pope Leo XIII) in 1886 Alleppey which had till then been a part of the vicariate of Verapoly had to be handed over to the newly constituted diocese of Cochin. The bishop of Cochin invited Canossian Sisters to take over the St. Joseph’s Convent school. Consequently the Carmelite sisters had to leave the place. Under the new circumstances discerning the administrative talents of Sr. Teresa the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly- Dr. Leonard Mellano called Sr. Teresa from Alleppey to Ernakulam in 1887 and gave her the double mandate to start an English Medium School and found a religious community of sisters. Accordingly a Congregation with the name of the Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel known today as the Institute of the Carmelite Sisters of St. Teresa (CSST), was founded on 24th April 1887. The school - St. Teresa’s English Medium School for Girls was established on May 9th of the same year. It was here that Mother Teresa lived and worked during the rest of her short life.
Mother Teresa was on a mission to Europe when God called her to Himself. She died in a train accident on September 12, 1902 at Mangapatnam in the Cuddapah diocese in Andra Pradesh.
The glory of God through the salvation of souls was the mainspring of her entire life as a Carmelite nun. Hence the places of all her ministries were centers of Evangelisation. Mother Teresa fore saw the need for today’s re-evangelistion more than a century ago: “We are striving to make new Christians but we must take care that our old Christians do not drift away into indifferentism... (Letter 4th September 1893)
Her remarkable contribution to the society was empowerment of women through education. In education her vision went beyond her times, when she aimed through it the formation of the total human person with a sense of responsibility to the society and to the nation. She focused on faith formation through education: “Now in India if you want to work for the soul you must begin by training the mind. When their minds are raised and enlightened by education then only then will we have true Catholics in heart and mind. Gradual and daily instruction in the truths of our holy faith alone will bear seed” (Letter 18 November1895)
She worked in close collaboration with the ecclesiastical superiors and the clergy for the establishment of St. Albert’s school for the Catholic boys of Ernakulam inorder to educate them to be loyal to the Catholic Church and defend her teaching and doctrines.
Living faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist was the source of Mother Teresa’s inner strength. It was the driving force which impelled her to recognize the broken body of Jesus in the suffering humanity and to respond to the signs of the time. Moved by Christ-like compassion she cared for destitute and abandoned unwed mothers the aged and the invalid. When one of her orphans was suffering from an attack of smallpox and admitted in a hospital’, she nursed her personally for several days.
In 1887 when the State was gripped by famine mother Teresa and her community of sisters wholeheartedly collaborated with the government in its famine relief programme of distributing food to the poor. Mother Teresa’s loving concern reached even prison walls. She seized the opportunity to bring them the joy and blessings of God by obtaining sanction to get the Holy Mass said in the sub jail. Thus she shared in the joys and sorrows, fears and anxieties of those in whose midst God’s saving love placed her.
Dauntless like her patron St. Teresa nothing could stop her from venturing into challenging areas with unwavering faith in providence. Her well balanced spirituality was a blend of contemplation and compassion.