Prayer, charity and service are the work of the Sisters of Mother Teresa in Singapore

Eight Missionaries of Charity work in the city-state, caring for the poor residents at the St Francis of Assisi Parish Church. Cooking, washing clothes, and give spiritual support are some of the services they render to the people of the neighbourhood. In 1976 Mother Teresa made her first visit to the country.

Singapore (AsiaNews/CatholicNews) – The Missionaries of Charity of Singapore welcomed "with joy and humility" the canonisation of Mother Teresa, who was declared a saint by Pope Francis on 4 September in Rome, said Sister Mary Carmel, religious superior in the city-state. "We want to imitate her example of service to the poor and we are challenged to do so with ever greater fidelity."

The link between Singapore and Mother Teresa marks its 40th anniversary this year. The saint of Calcutta visited the country for the first time in 1976, and shortly thereafter the Missionaries of Charity set up their first facility, the ‘Home of Our Lady’, in Paya Lebar, on the east side of the island.

In 1987, Mother Teresa returned, and on that occasion she was met by President Wee Kim Wee before speaking to 20,000 young people at Toa Payoh Stadium.

In the same year, the sisters opened the ‘Home of the Gift of Love’ in Punggol (northeast), a facility for the elderly and the have-nots. In 2012 the home was moved to Boon Lay district, south-western Singapore.

Sister Mary Carmel describes a typical day for the sisters at the home, which is not far from the St Francis of Assisi parish. The wake-up call is at 4.40 am. After an hour of community prayer, the sisters go to the parish church for Mass.

After the celebration, they prepare breakfast for 32 people living at the church. The sisters also take care of washing their clothing.

Some missionaries visit families who asked for prayers or require spiritual advice, most of them non-Catholics

The nuns help local residents in many ways. Some help poor families in cooking and cleaning; others do the hair for those who cannot afford it. Once a month the missionaries provide basic necessities to several Christian, Hindu and families Muslim.

Sister Carmel explains that many volunteers (about 130) assist the sisters in their charity work each week. They are of different nationalities: Singaporeans, Koreans, Japanese, Indians and Germans. The area is home to many economic migrants.

In the afternoon the sisters rest for an hour before turning to community prayers.

After preparing dinner and caring for the neediest residents, they end the day with a prayer and time together.

"Sometimes we darn clothes,” Sister Carmel said, “but usually we rest and chat among ourselves."

A relic of Mother Teresa is held at the ‘Home of the Gift of Love’.

At present, the superior noted, eight missionaries are active in Singapore (three of whom are Singaporeans), whilst nine Singaporean sisters work in the overseas service, in the Philippines and Hong Kong.