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September 4, 1998  HOME | NEWS | SPECIALS

A billboard on Park Street It all began fifty two years ago, almost to the day. On September 10, 1946, Sister Teresa -- as she was then known -- was travelling by train from Calcutta to Darjeeling. With her was one passenger whose name did not figure in the official lists, for whom no ticket had been issued, but who was to impact on Teresa -- and through her, on the rest of the world.

His name was Jesus Christ.

And sometime during the train's noisy progress uphill to the sylvan tourist resort, He told the impressionable sister, 'I want you to serve Me among the poorest of the poor.'

Those words, uttered during one routine train journey, were to change a life. And through that life, millions of others.

Those words were to signal the end of one journey -- and the beginning of another one. A seemingly endless one, that took Mother Teresa through the bylanes and back-alleys of human misery.

A voyage that earned, for her, the sobriquet 'Saint of the Sewers'.

On September 5 last year, the journey that began on that train to Darjeeling finally ended. As Mother Teresa passed into the ages, leaving behind memories, and the awesome legend of her life and times.

The sounds of global mourning soon gave place to a Cassandra chorus. 'It is,' the voices of doom proclaimed, 'the end. Not just of the Mother, but of the mission she made her own. The end, too, of the Missionaries of Charity, the organisation she founded, nursed, nurtured, and built into a bastion of hope for the deprived of Calcutta and, by extension, of the rest of the world as well.'

In a word, the mission was not expected to survive the missionary.

Chief Feature Writer Archana Masih and Staff Photographer Jewella C Miranda spent a week in Calcutta. Meeting the Missionaries of Charity, monitoring their work, wandering among the poor, the ailing and the dispossessed, who were the Mother's natural constituency.

And here, they tell the tale -- of what happens to an organisation, after the firm hand that held its helm, that gave it direction, has been replaced by other hands...

'Mother has gone and yet Mother has not gone'

A Prayer for the Dying

'We have never forced people to convert'

The Missionaries of Charity: A Photoessay

Where Hope Resides

Design: Dominic Xavier