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Twenty-five Missionaries of Charity meet in Sydney for retreat

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The sisters of the Missionaries of Charity have gathered in Sydney for their annual retreat. PHOTO: GIOVANNI PORTELLI

While Australians are struggling through the rising cost of living, the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity know what they’re facing—living through adversity comes with the sisters’ job description.

Serving the poorest of the poor, the congregation of women who dedicate their lives to continuing the work of Mother Teresa live by divine providence and believe God will support them, no matter the need. And that need is certainly increasing.
Based in Sydney’s at St Peter’s Surry Hills, and receiving no government or church funding, their survival is completely left in God’s hands.

Their neighbourhood is a mix of the prosperous, the poor and everything in between, and has seen an increase in not only those seeking help but those offering it.

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Preferring to fly under the radar despite their instantly recognisable white and blue saris, the sisters say it is their faith in God’s providence that allows them to carry out their ministry.

Typically, eight sisters live in the inner-city convent, which is currently housing around 25 visiting from East Timor, The Philippines and PNG for an annual retreat.

Regional superior of the Oceania region of the Missionaries of Charity, Sr Joseph Maria, said to work on the streets with the poor is richly rewarding.

She said knowing the sisters will always be able to provide from nothing gives them an incredible sense of peace.

“Mother Teresa had a very strong belief in divine providence, so she refused any government or church funding because she didn’t want any financial security or regular income, just complete dependence on God,” she said.

“And incredibly, that is what we have always done and never needed for anything.
“Every day around the world we feed thousands and thousands of people from nothing, God is so very good to us.

“We have seen the rising cost of living increase the demand for our help, but we always have enough and nobody is ever turned away.

“We rely on divine providence for absolutely everything and are having no trouble with the increase in need.

“We work with the ethos of Mother Teresa where everything is free, but we always have enough. There will be a donation, a bequest—God always just provides, so we never have to worry.”

Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2023

Established in Australia in 1969 in outback Bourke by Mother Teresa herself, who came to know of the needs of Indigenous Australians, there are now houses across Australia, in NSW, Queensland, Perth, and several across the Northern Territory including Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.

Sr Joseph Maria, one of the first 10 Australians to enter the congregation, said it is an incredibly peaceful and prayerful way of life. “It was by far my hardest decision to enter, but also my best,” she said.

“It would have been so easy to say no to the calling because it’s hard, but then when you join you get certain graces so that you can manage.

“It’s all about having enough, and you pretty quickly realise you don’t need much to be happy.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in the demands of life, like paying off a house, a car, educating children which is all necessary, but you also need to take time out to think about eternal life.”

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