Lay missionary Eloisa Greenwald volunteered at Shanti Dan, home for women and girls with disabilities. (CNS photo/courtesy Eloisa Greenwald)
By Anna Capizzi
What is it like to volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata?
Thousands travel to Kolkata, India, each year to give their time helping the order of sisters Blessed Teresa founded to “satiate the thirst of Jesus” by serving the poor in the slums of India.
Anyone can volunteer. And you don’t have to make prior arrangements — just find lodging in advance and apply for a tourist visa. The sisters hold orientations three times a week for new volunteers.
Volunteers come from all over and might not necessarily be Christian or even religious. Some are curious about Mother Teresa’s work and just “want to do some good,” said Joe Reciniello, who has served in Kolkata six times.
Upon arrival the “cacophony of noises, smells and sights” struck volunteer struck volunteer Renee Roden, who volunteered in 2013 for two months with University of Notre Dame’s International Summer Service Learning Program.
Missionary of Charity Sisters chat in alley near the motherhouse in Kolkata, India, before afternoon prayer. (CNS photo/courtesy Victoria Vissat)
Navigating through the chaotic, dusty streets thronged with people, “poverty hits you in the face, right along with discomfort,” said Eloisa Greenwald, a missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach, who volunteered for three weeks in 2015.
Volunteers find it difficult to see so many families and individuals sleeping along the road and “even more difficult to understand the greater complexities of poverty” and not become “desensitized,” said Jenna Ahn, who spent two summers volunteering.
But this is why volunteers come: to tend to the unwanted, the forgotten, those on the margins of society.
The day begins with Mass at 6 a.m., followed by a simple breakfast of chai tea, bread and a banana. The sisters sing a “thank you” song for departing volunteers and send everyone off with a prayer for the day’s work.
Volunteers pray before the tomb of Mother Teresa and ask for her intercession. (CNS photo/Victoria Vissat)
The volunteers split into groups and travel to the different homes the sisters have throughout the city. Each home has its own apostolate, a specific purpose.
At Shanti Dan, the home for women and girls with disabilities, Ahn spent mornings with the girls “singing, dancing, mediating, working on nonverbal modes of communication, learning colors and numbers, watering plants in the garden.”
“Over two years, the girls (Read More)