Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Early Neighbors Remember Sister Eager to Help the Poor

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Early Neighbors Remember Sister Eager to Help the Poor

Article excerpt

To get to where Mother Teresa's voyage of sacrifice began, follow Calcutta's Creek Lane through a neighborhood of humble homes and tiny businesses - a hardware store, a print shop, a tropical fish wholesaler.

The street twists and turns like its namesake, one moment wide enough for a car, the next too narrow for a pedestrian to pass a bicycle rickshaw.

At No. 14, climb two flights of stairs from which most of the paint is gone. There waits 89-year-old Michael Gomes, his eyes clouded and hearing going, but handshake firm. In 1949, Gomes' parish priest asked him if he would provide a home for Sister Teresa, a young woman who, the priest said, "wants to serve the poor, and wants to live with the poor." "I did not hesitate. If you were in my place, you would not have hesitated," Gomes said. "She was a gift from God, a very great gift." Perhaps it's only hindsight that allows Gomes to say today that from the beginning, he saw something holy in Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, now known to the world as Mother Teresa. The 1979 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who founded a worldwide charity, died Sept. 5 at 87, and already the Vatican is being pressed to initiate the process leading to her being declared a saint. The Sister Teresa, as she was then, came to stay on the top floor of Gomes' home - where he now lives, with his extended family sprawled throughout the two lower floors - after leaving a nearby Loreto order convent in Calcutta, where she had been a teacher since 1929. Three years before her arrival at Gomes' home, she said, she had heard a call from God "to serve Him among the poorest of the poor." She first moved to a home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, but that was too far from the school she had opened in Calcutta's Motijeel slum. Gomes' home was more convenient, and more likely to provide the independence she needed to recruit followers. By the time she outgrew the top floor of No. 14 in 1953, 28 other women had joined her work, Gomes said. She had been granted permission to found her own order, the Missionaries of Charity, in 1950. Gomes remembers the young women were lively, once playing a game of tug-of-war on the balcony overlooking the neighborhood's muddy streets and tenement rooftops strung with laundry. …

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