The Missionaries of Charity is a Roman Catholic congregation, established in 1950 by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Today the society counts over 4500 sisters as its member, and has a presence in over 133 countries. In the year 1950, Mother received permission from the Vatican to set up her own order, originally called the Diocesan Congregation of the Calcutta Diocese. However with the passage of time, the institute came to be known and identified as the Missionaries of Charity. A member of the order designate themselves under the initials “M.C”, and undertake vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and a fourth vow of giving “Wholehearted and Free service to the poorest of the poor".
The Missionaries of Charity cares for the hapless who are in desperate need of food and shelter, such as the mentally challenged, children, orphans, aged, refugees, lepers, and people with AIDS, amongst others. The society has countless schools that strive to educate children on the streets, along with 19 homes inKolkata itself, such as the homes forthe dying, orphans, women, an AIDS hospital, and a leper colony. These schools and homes provide services, food and shelter to the needy, without any charges, and without discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, creed or sex.
Today, the order consists of both Contemplative and Active Branches of Brothers and Sisters over several different countries. The Missionaries of Charity Fathers was founded by Mother Teresa with Fr. Joseph Langford in the year 1984. Similar to the Sisters, the Fathers live a life devoid of television and other items of comfort. They neither smoke or drink alcohol, and beg for their food.
On March 13, 1997, six months prior to Mother Teresa's death, Sister Mary Nirmala Joshi was elected as the new Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity. The post is currently occupied by Sister Mary Prema, who succeeded Sister Nirmala after a general chapter held in Calcutta in April 2009.
In order to become a missionary of charity, one has to undergo a course of nine years. For the first year, candidates become ‘come-and-see's’, wherein Potential Sisters work as assistants by caring for patients. After one year, women willing to join choose religious names and begin their study. During the novitiate, they study Church history, sacred scripture, theology and the Constitutions of the Society. These women must wear white saris without the three blue stripes. Following the completion of the first two years, they take vows, which are renewed after the fourth and fifth years. The sixth year involves travel to Rome, or Calcutta for spiritual development.