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Mother Teresa’s House of Illusions

How She Harmed Her Helpers As Well As Those They 'Helped'

Mother Teresa’s House of Illusions



Some years after I became a Catholic, I joined Mother Teresa’s congregation, the Missionaries of Charity. I was one of her sisters for nine and a half years, living in the Bronx, Rome, and San Francisco, until I became disillusioned and left in May 1989. As I reentered the world, I slowly began to unravel the tangle of lies in which I had lived. I wondered how I could have believed them for so long.

Three of Mother Teresa’s teachings that are fundamental to her religious congregation are all the more dangerous because they are believed so sincerely by her sisters. Most basic is the belief that as long as a sister obeys she is doing God’s will. Another is the belief that the sisters have leverage over God by choosing to suffer. Their suffering makes God very happy. He then dispenses more graces to humanity. The third is the belief that any attachment to human beings, even the poor being served, supposedly interferes with love of God and must be vigilantly avoided or immediately uprooted.

The efforts to prevent any attachments cause continual chaos and confusion, movement and change in the congregation. Mother Teresa did not invent these beliefs – they were prevalent in religious congregations before Vatican II – but she did everything in her power (which was great) to enforce them.

Once a sister has accepted these fallacies she will do almost anything. She can allow her health to be destroyed, neglect those she vowed to serve, and switch off her feelings and independent thought. She can turn a blind eye to suffering, inform on her fellow sisters, tell lies with ease, and ignore public laws and regulations.

11009349_543073269169328_6664075316537055329_nWomen from many nations joined Mother Teresa in the expectation that they would help the poor and come closer to God themselves. When I left, there were more than 3,000 sisters in approximately 400 houses scattered throughout the world. Many of these sisters who trusted Mother Teresa to guide them have become broken people. In the face of overwhelming evidence, some of them have finally admitted that their trust has been betrayed, that God could not possibly be giving the orders they hear. It is difficult for them to decide to leave – their self-confidence has been destroyed, and they have no education beyond what they brought with them when they joined. I was one of the lucky ones who mustered enough courage to walk away.

It is in the hope that others may see the fallacy of this purported way to holiness that I tell a little of what I know. Although there are relatively few tempted to join Mother Teresa’s congregation of sisters, there are many who generously have supported her work because they do not realize how her twisted premises strangle efforts to alleviate misery. Unaware that most of the donations sit unused in her bank accounts, they too are deceived into thinking they are helping the poor.

As a Missionary of Charity, I was assigned to record donations and write the thank-you letters. The money arrived at a frantic rate. The mail carrier often delivered the letters in sacks. We wrote receipts for checks of $50,000 and more on a regular basis. Sometimes a donor would call up and ask if we had received his check, expecting us to remember it readily because it was so large. How could we say that we could not recall it because we had received so many that were even larger?

When Mother spoke publicly, she never asked for money, but she did encourage people to make sacrifices for the poor, to “give until it hurts.” Many people did – and they gave it to her. We received touching letters from people, sometimes apparently poor themselves, who were making sacrifices to send us a little money for the starving people in Africa, the flood victims in Bangladesh, or the poor children in India. Most of the money sat in our bank accounts.




The flood of donations was considered to be a sign of God’s approval of Mother Teresa’s congregation. We were told by our superiors that we received more gifts than other religious congregations because God was pleased with Mother, and because the Missionaries of Charity were the sisters who were faithful to the true spirit of religious life.

Most of the sisters had no idea how much money the congregation was amassing. After all, we were taught not to collect anything. One summer the sisters living on the outskirts of Rome were given more crates of tomatoes than they could distribute. None of their neighbors wanted them because the crop had been so prolific that year. The sisters decided to can the tomatoes rather than let them spoil, but when Mother found out what they had done she was very displeased. Storing things showed lack of trust in Divine Providence.

The donations rolled in and were deposited in the bank, but they had no effect on our ascetic lives and very little effect on the lives of the poor we were trying to help. We lived a simple life, bare of all superfluities. We had three sets of clothes, which we mended until the material was too rotten to patch anymore. We washed our own clothes by hand. The never-ending piles of sheets and towels from our night shelter for the homeless we washed by hand, too. Our bathing was accomplished with only one bucket of water. Dental and medical checkups were seen as an unnecessary luxury.

Mother was very concerned that we preserve our spirit of poverty. Spending money would destroy that poverty. She seemed obsessed with using only the simplest of means for our work. Was this in the best interests of the people we were trying to help, or were we in fact using them as a tool to advance our own “sanctity?” In Haiti, to keep the spirit of poverty, the sisters reused needles until they became blunt. Seeing the pain caused by the blunt needles, some of the volunteers offered to procure more needles, but the sisters refused.

We begged for food and supplies from local merchants as though we had no resources. On one of the rare occasions when we ran out of donated bread, we went begging at the local store. When our request was turned down, our superior decreed that the soup kitchen could do without bread for the day.

It was not only merchants who were offered a chance to be generous. Airlines were requested to fly sisters and air cargo free of charge. Hospitals and doctors were expected to absorb the costs of medical treatment for the sisters or to draw on funds designated for the religious. Workmen were encouraged to labor without payment or at reduced rates. We relied heavily on volunteers who worked long hours in our soup kitchens, shelters, and day camps.

A hard-working farmer devoted many of his waking hours to collecting and delivering food for our soup kitchens and shelters. “If I didn’t come, what would you eat?” he asked.

Our Constitution forbade us to beg for more than we needed, but, when it came to begging, the millions of dollars accumulating in the bank were treated as if they did not exist.

For years I had to write thousands of letters to donors, telling them that their entire gift would be used to bring God’s loving compassion to the poorest of the poor. I was able to keep my complaining conscience in check because we had been taught that the Holy Spirit was guiding Mother. To doubt her was a sign that we were lacking in trust and, even worse, guilty of the sin of pride. I shelved my objections and hoped that one day I would understand why Mother wanted to gather so much money, when she herself had taught us that even storing tomato sauce showed lack of trust in Divine Providence.


~ by Susan Shields

For nearly a decade, Susan Shields was a Missionaries of Charity sister. She played a key role in Mother Teresa’s organization until she resigned.

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11 Responses to "Mother Teresa’s House of Illusions"

  1. Rajan  June 29, 2014 at 7:59 am

    hmmm very interesting and eye opener…we could find more behind them….making fool to people…and money too…are these people funding too or receiving money as cash too ?

    Reply
  2. Don  June 30, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    This is the word of one person and before we can make a fair opinion we must be hold the word of many!

    Reply
    • Sanskriti  July 1, 2014 at 2:26 am

      Please don’t forget to watch the video at the end of the article. Christopher Hitchins did an amazing job debunking the myth of Mother Teresa. You can also find Shawn and Penn’s documentary on her among many other. Just go to YouTube, put “truth about Mother Teresa” and you will find your answers. You can also do your own research on Google as well.

      Reply
  3. PR  July 4, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Brilliant article, I have always argued with my friends that Teresa wanted the poor to suffer as she believed that is the only way to get closer to god and took only those people who converted to christianity. My friends never believed, I think such accounts from people who have worked with her will help me buttress my point. Sanskrithi is doing a great job in promoting India and its culture while dispelling many misconceptions of our history and culture. Great job. Kudos !

    Reply
  4. Raghu  August 15, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Can we trust and Ho on with one person comments?
    In fact, we have brought up by hearing Mother Teresa’s services to the poor

    Reply
  5. nisha  November 24, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Had it been true, she would not have been awarded the noble prize, the prestigious of all. We must not believe in one persons comments, we have more facts favouring Mother Teressa. A person devoting her life for the society, obviously has to bear the sours of the critics as well.

    Reply
    • Sanskriti  November 27, 2014 at 2:54 am

      What would you say to Obama winning (now worthless) Nobel “PEACE” Prize!? Don’t be so naive, use your common sense and do some research on the topic before putting out your “OPINION”…

      Reply
    • Praveen  February 24, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Well … there is a saying dont know where is heard it…. “the biggest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince he did not exist” … The problem is we Indians are know to take things on face values. When someone comes out with the truth we find hard to digest….. Can you accept the fact that she was responsible for keeping dark regimes in the world in power acting on behalf of the Vatican …. do you know she supported the Duvaliers of Haiti, …. her support for Nicuraguan Contras ….. the list goes on ….

      Reply
  6. Dilip Mehta  February 25, 2015 at 3:27 am

    No body ever asked her these questions. No.1 If she wanted serve poors, why she didn’t stay in her own country Albania? Albania is very poor country. No.2 Why she didn’t go to Pakistan, Bangladesh or other poor Islamic countries? Why her target were Hindus She never tried to convert Indian Muslims. She knew that she can convert Hindus without a problem.

    Reply
  7. Vinod Suryavanshi  April 2, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    You are absolutely right Dilip bhai, we hindus see god in every thing and are easy to capture by Godmen . We need to wake-up as it is never too late.

    Reply
  8. Sri  October 10, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Yes, we hindus are gullible and easily believe Godmen of other religion..No wonder so many hindus converted to Christanity when St. Thomas visited India & hindus( including brahmin) were mersmerised by his miracle like small kids and they decided to betray their own God n converted to christanity…Now the question is why only hindus face this.?what is that thing which makes them to betray their own God. First definitely is poverty..& christan missionaries, blatantly take advantage of this… Secondly I feel there is very less connect between hindu Godmen and the mass..Hindu Godmen should connect up more ,communicate more with the mass, should project compassion & Imbibe confidence & poisitivity among the poor sections of the Hindu. We must also stop caste system incase if it’s still prevalent. I’am glad that in the present era, we have atleast Baba Ramdev who connects up very well with the people imibing positive vibes and spreading happiness among all..We also need more hindu missionaries..

    Reply

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