Halifax — Saint Teresa of Calcutta, better known as Mother Teresa, dedicated six decades of her life to tirelessly caring for some of humanity’s most vulnerable people.
However, a poem unearthed in her home village of Gjakova, Albania, has now called all that into question.
Dr. Sabina Graz-Montaigneau, a Halifax-based expert on 20th-century Indian missionary activity, discovered the poem while examining Teresa’s personal papers in the small Albanian village, which at her birth was a part of the Ottoman Empire.
“This little square of paper fluttered out of a folder, and on it was written a poem clearly in Mother Teresa’s handwriting and signed ‘Agnes Bojaxhiu, age 18,'” recalled Graz-Montaigneau. After translating the small piece, the researcher quickly realized that Teresa’s entire legacy, which includes ministering to thousands of contagiously ill Calcutta slum-dwellers, was going to have to be rethought.
“It was offensive. I was offended.”
The 1938 poem, whose contents cannot be reprinted here, references a joke about the banking prowess of members of the Jewish faith and also includes a derisive term for those suffering from ague.
Members of Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, an organization with 517 missions in more than a hundred countries, have been left feeling duped.
“All this time we thought she was one of the purest exemplars of Christ’s mission,” explained a despondent Sister Rosalia, a nurse working with the missionaries in Burkina Faso. “Turns out it was all an elaborate cover for her bullying and anti-Semitic behaviour.
“She was an adult when she made those comments and she needs to take responsibility for them.”
Despite intense international pressure, officials in the Vatican have so far resisted calls for Saint Teresa’s de-canonization, though Pope Francis has recently hinted at support for a compromise solution.