Mother Teresa was officially recognized as a saint on September 4, 2016. Her life’s work with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta and throughout the world inspires those of us who hear Christ’s call to spread the love of God to each person we meet. Mother Teresa’s canonization is a great time to celebrate her life with students in our faith-formation classes, especially in our continued celebration of the Year of Mercy.
Mother Teresa embraced and embodied Christ’s call to defend the dignity of each and every person. Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, runs many different ministries and homes in Calcutta, serving men, women, children, lepers, and the dying. If the highest form of flattery is imitation, then we should strive to follow Mother Teresa’s example in our journey of discipleship. Here are some suggestions for celebrating her life through love and service.
Our younger students may not be ready for graphic descriptions and images of the great work that Mother Teresa did or to confront poverty firsthand. They will, however, understand and appreciate her wise words that “every time you smile at someone, it is an act of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Begin by discussing how it feels when you are greeted with smiles, frowns, and other facial expressions. Afterward lead the students in a project that will bring a smile to others’ faces. For example, my class decorated disposable placemats with kind words, stickers, and hand-drawn pictures that we sent to a home for retired priests in the archdiocese. This small act was done with great love and really brightened the dinner table of the men who used them.
More mature students may be ready to contemplate Mother Teresa’s belief that “it is not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Service opportunities for these students should stretch them beyond their comfort zone. Consider planning field trips to share your love with your community in a personal way. Visits to nursing homes, homeless shelters, or soup kitchens allow students to find the face of Christ in others as they may not have before. Pair this field trip with a teaching on a local justice issue that is important in your community, and pray for all those you meet by name.
Mother Teresa told her sisters and volunteers that the qualifications for serving were simply to have “hearts to love and hands to serve.” By transmitting this message to our students we are honoring our great new saint-to-be, Teresa of Calcutta, and following in her holy mission to serve God in all people.
If you’re looking for a resource to use with older students or adults, check out Meet Mother Teresa. This brief but information-packed pamphlet encapsulates the essential wisdom of Mother Teresa and includes reflection questions to spark discussion around and engagement with the core tenants of Mother Teresa’s approach to a life of lived faith.