Sister Joanna on the "precarious" mission of Mother Teresa
by Nirmala Carvalho
A Missionary of Charity since 1974 Sister Joanna D'Souza spent 15 years with the Blessed. The Mother wanted to open a house of order in China, but the government prevented it. The mission: "We do not plan anything, we go where God leads us, even when we do not understand or through times of darkness. We leave God free to do what he wants with us ."

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Celebrations marking the centenary of the birth of Mother Teresa of Calcutta began yesterday. Mass was recited at the Cathedral of Baruipur (West Bengal), the first in the world to be co-dedicated to the Blessed. On the occasion of the centenary August 26, AsiaNews continues to offer testimony about the life of Mother Teresa. Sister Joanna D'Souza, Missionary of Charity of 59, entered the order in 1974. She is the Regional Superior in Delhi and spent 15 years with Mother Teresa. In an interview with AsiaNews, the Missionary of Charity stresses the simplicity of Mother Teresa and her "profound" love for God, also made up of moments of darkness and difficulty. She speaks of Mother Teresa’s desire to open a home in China, but the government refused her a permit, and the orders "precarious" mission, which after the death of the Blessed has continued unchanged: "To love Christ, surrender to Him fully and joyfully ... Leaving Him free to do with us whatever he wants. "

How was Mother as a person?

Mother was a simple person, all her prayers were together with all of us, she ate her meals together with us.  After dinner, I would go to her room and we would be sorting out the mail, answering letters, getting her signatures wherever needed and saying the night prayers together- we spent very intimate moments together .  Mother's only desire was to do God's will.  Often I wondered - Is this the woman whom the whole world is running after? 

What saddened Mother ?

Mother was saddened when anyone left the Missionaries of Charity, she was pained, she wanted to save their vocation.  Once as regional superior in Delhi, an outgoing, vivacious nun wanted to leave the congregation, and after much discussion with me, I wrote to Mother telling her about this nun stating "I think she's made the correct decision".  Mother was very saddened by my note, (about the correct decision), "You should have saved the vocation, she told me".

Impatience with the poor, caused Mother immense sadness, if Mother came across any Missionaries of Charity  being impatient with the poor, Mother was deeply saddened, Mother loved the Poor, and her heart was pained to see any of her daughters being impatient with the poor.

What was Mother's response to Awards and Fame

Mother accepted both awards and criticism in the same way. Mother' was neither carried away by fame nor discouraged or disturbed by criticism. I was with Mother in Delhi, when the controversy of "Hell's angels was everywhere,  I was anguished by all the criticism, but when I asked Mother, 'Does all this not bother you?, "I pray for them" was Mothers simple response.

Mother accepted crowds, to give you an example, once in Delhi , I accompanied Mother when she was receiving an Award- after the ceremony, there were massive crowds outside waiting to greet Mother, even to touch her, the surging crowds converged to our car, some even tapping on the windows, I was rather perturbed, but Mother reassured me stating; “They are showing their love".

What was the core of Mother’s mission, where exactly was Mother’s Desire?

Mother had a deep experience of God’s Love for Humanity, and God wait for our Mission. Mother’s Mission was to experience God's Love and to respond to His Love - "I Thirst".  God identifies himself with the poor, so if we want to experience God's love and be a witness of God's love we have to serve the poor -"You did it to me".

After Mother's death, when we got access to Mother’s personal correspondence, (much before the book Come Be My Light), we got a shock, we could never have imagined that Mother went through periods of darkness.  One would think that Mother had a deep experience of God how could she go through this crisis.  But now, this tells me that Mother had a far more intense and deeper understand of God Love and of her deep love for God. Mother wanted to God to use her fully. She had a deep experience of God’s love for humanity.

What is the  Mission of the Missionaries of Charity  today ?

As it has always been, from the very beginning, loving Christ, total surrender and cheerfulness.  The Missionaries of Charity do not plan anything- there is no planning- we go where God through the Holy Spirit leads us.  There is precariousness in our mission, trusting in God, even when we do not understand, when we go through periods of darkness, allowing God the freedom to do with us whatever he wills.

Did Mother have any unfulfilled desire?

To open a house in China was Mothers great desire and it remains unfulfilled.  Thefirst time Mother went to mainland China and the second time, everything was set to go and open a house in China, however, just the night before, the Government phoned and informed us not to come.  Mother was disappointed, she said: “Our sisters and even food was ready, but the Government said not to come".

Since then everyday a prayer is recited by all Missionaries of Charity  to Our Lady of Sheshan for the Church in China.  Mother was clear that we must go with the approval of the Government.

How are you living out your charism as a Missionary of Charity?

I am one of the Councillors, and mainly involved in administration like appointments of the Regional Supriors etc. also my work along side Mother was also administrative.  Once Mother sensed that I was struggling in finding joy in the administrative work , especially since I wanted to be involved in active service to the poorest of the poor, and Mother lovingly comforted me saying, ”You did not come for the work, you came to belong to Jesus”, those words enlightened my mission, vocation and life and I began to find joy and happiness in the administrative work, pondering on the words of Mother, “I live in the freedom of God’s Will, not planning anything, being faithful wherever I am sent, and being cheerful in God’s daily plan in my life”.