I'm probably pretty average when it comes to knowing about Saint Mother Teresa. I've read some of her spiritual writings and seen a few of the movies about her life but I'm in no sense an expert. After viewing this new documentary, however, I feel like Mother Teresa has touched my life in a new way.
The film, Mother Teresa: No Greater Love, commemorates the 25th anniversary of Mother's death on September 5, 1997, and will premier in theaters as a Fathom Event for two nights only, October 3 & 4. Click here for location information and tickets.
The film fulfills two goals: to honor Mother Teresa and tell her story for a new generation but also to show how her legacy lives on in the spirit and work of the religious communities she founded: The Missionaries of Charity (MC). With unprecedented access to institutional archives and filmed at MC locations around the world, this film is truly a work of art and will be a spiritual inspiration to people of faith and people of no faith.
The first description of Mother, as she is affectionately known by those who knew her, in the film is that she was "a small, tiny, bent woman but that she had a commanding presence." And what an impact this small, tiny, bent woman had on the world.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta in "Mother Teresa: No Greater Love." © 2022 Knights of Columbus. All Rights Reserved.
Mother Teresa: No Greater Love is written and directed by David Naglieri and produced by the Knights of Columbus. The almost two hour run time of the film, flows smoothly between interviews, archival footage of Mother Teresa and dramatizations depicting her early life and her journey from the Sisters of Loreto to her call to serve the poorest of the poor that led to the founding of the Missionaries of Charity.
The audience travels around the globe, first, to Boa Vista refugee camp in Roraima, Brazil where the MC sisters care for the Venezuelan refugees there. Next visited, is the Home of Mercy in Nairobi, Kenya where the sisters care for severely physically and mentally handicapped children. Back to Brazil, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, the films shows how the sisters seek the face of Jesus in "Crackland," the encampment of drug dealers and homeless addicts who are banned, even from the slums.
In the Bronx, New York, the sisters provide food and spiritual inspiration to people who live on the streets and anyone in need. The guests at the home for lepers in Titigah, India give back to the sisters by making the saris that are their habits.
Taking pride of place, however, is the Kalighat Home for the Dying and Destitute in Kolkata, India, where Mother Teresa first started her mission. It is where Malcom Muggeridge, the British journalist, came to talk to Mother when preparing his book and film, "Something Beautiful for God." The story is told how Mother initially refused to meet with him, not wanting the publicity, but his appeal eventually reached the Vatican, who ordered her to welcome him and his film crew.
At the home in Kalighat, India, in "Mother Teresa: No Greater Love." © 2022 Knights of Columbus. All Rights Reserved.
What I found most inspiring about the film, however, was testimony after testimony from people who knew her or those who had been helped by her spiritual daughters, to her singular focus: seeing Jesus in every person she met.
Numerous Missionaries of Charity, sisters, brothers, and priests, all tell about their encounters with Mother or her influence in their lives. Sister M. Bernice is the first African American MC and she ministers in the Bronx. Mother's maxim, "love until it hurts," keeps her going as she prays with people on the streets who line up for love and care they receive from the sisters. Sr. M. Dorothy, the fourth sister to join Mother in Kolkata, says that one gets, "sucked into her confidence." Another sister talks about the defining Scripture passage that inspired Mother Teresa: "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did it to me" (Matthew 25: 40). Mother called it "the Gospel on five fingers: You-did-it-to-me."
Sr. M. Bernice, MC, praying with people in the Bronx, NY, in "Mother Teresa: No Greater Love." © 2022 Knights of Columbus. All Rights Reserved. .
Mother Teresa touched so many lives that no film can capture the scope of her influence but No Greater Love highlights a few of the many. For instance, Cristiane de Jesus Aquino is a former drug addict who lived in "Crackland" in Brazil. After experiencing the ministry of the sisters, she cleaned up and was able to cultivate a spiritual life under the guidance of the MC's.
Christiane Praying in the MC chapel in "Mother Teresa: No Greater Love." © 2022 Knights of Columbus. All Rights Reserved.
Another example is Jim Wahlberg, executive director of his brother's Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation. He describes meeting Mother Teresa when he was in prison as "looking at the face of God." He said, "She got up and told us the facts. We were children of God and Jesus Christ died for us and that we were more than just the prison numbers they gave us. We were more than the crimes we had committed. She told us that God loved us."
Jim Wahlberg in "Mother Teresa: No Greater Love." © 2022 Knights of Columbus. All Rights Reserved.
Mother Teresa and Saint John Paul II were good friends. In the 1980's AIDS was so prominent that the Holy Father asked her to care for AIDS patients. She fulfilled that request by opening an AIDS home in Harlem in 1985 where 91-year old Gene Principe still volunteers.
There's so much more the film covers: the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, her visits to the "tabernacles" (as her communities were called) all over the world, her visit to her parents' graves in Albania after being denied entry for decades, her declining health, death and global outpouring of grief, and her continuing impact on the world.
One interviewee sums up well the gift that Saint Mother Teresa gave the world: "Mother Teresa taught us that there are no expendable people. That everyone has dignity and worth because everyone is made in the image and likeness of God."
Mother Teresa in "Mother Teresa: No Greater Love." © 2022 Knights of Columbus. All Rights Reserved.
Would that we could do as she did and see Jesus in the face of every person, with no exceptions.
For more information about the film, please go to motherteresamovie.com.
About the Author
Sister Hosea Rupprecht is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, a religious community dedicated to evangelization with the media. She holds a Master of Theological Studies degree from the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto and an MA in Media Literacy from Webster University in St. Louis.
Sr. Hosea is director of the East Coast office of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, based in Staten Island, NY, and speaks on media literacy and faith to catechists, parents, youth, and young adults. Together with Father Chip Hines, she is the co-host of Searchlight, a Catholic movie review show on Catholic TV. Sr. Hosea is the author of How to Watch Movies with Kids: A Values-Based Strategy, released by Pauline Books & Media.
For the past 15 years, she has facilitated various film dialogues for both children and adults, as well as given presentations on integrating culture, faith and media.