MOTHER TERESA: A TEACHER PAR EXCELLENCE
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
September 5th: India once again celebrates its teachers; thanks to the vision of our late President Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who besides being a great educationist and philosopher, also believed that education is the key to India’s inclusive development. As a fitting tribute to this great man, since 1962, India observes his birth anniversary (September 5th) as Teachers Day.
Very symbolically, Mother Teresa died on 5th September 1997. Her first major responsibility in 1931, after her profession as a Loretto Sister, was to teach in St. Mary’s Bengali Medium School for girls in Kolkata. This was an assignment she undertook with great love and dedication, till she left the Loretto Sisters in 1948 to found the Missionaries of Charity.
From then on, it was no looking back for Mother Teresa. In word and witness, she proved to be a teacher par excellence. She was convinced that the poor children of the slums had to be taught the 3Rs (reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic) but more than that, she realized that she had to communicate to the world the values of Jesus who for her, was the Master Teacher. She was the embodiment of many values but high among them were Compassion, Courage and Commitment.
If ever one would dare to give a core competency to Mother Teresa, it is the single characteristic of being a compassionate person. She reiterated this quality in a way, few humans can ever do; her love for the marginalized and the vulnerable and particularly for the poorest of the poor was boundless. She was able to give and not to count the cost. It was her ability to be compassionate towards others that motivated her to found the Missionaries of Charity. She was effusive in her compassion for others.
It takes courage to answer a call and Mother Teresa demonstrated this value many times over. As a very young European, she left the distant shores of her country to come to serve in India. Living in India in those days was not easy, yet she opted for a tougher life, literally ‘pitching her tent’ among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Kolkata. She had to face several obstacles all through her life but she faced them squarely, proving that she was truly a woman of substance.
For Mother Teresa, there was never looking back. Her commitment to the cause to which she espoused herself, is legendary. At times, she, her Sisters and the people entrusted to her care had nothing to eat - but she never gave up because she knew that her God would never let her down. She remained a committed person till the very end. This unflinching commitment also became a hallmark of her way of proceeding.
Today, more than ever, our world cries out for Compassion, Courage and Commitment. No amount of gimmicks and high-profile publicity can generate these qualities. Through her simple life-style, Mother Teresa was truly the embodiment of Compassion, Courage and Commitment. In a manner most unassuming, she taught the world the need and importance of embracing these values.
As we celebrate Teachers Day and Mother Teresa, let us all in some small ways do our best to imbibe these values and help make our world more Compassionate, more Courageous and more Committed!
5th September, 2014
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad-380052