ROME – A new documentary has been released on the life and legacy of Mother Teresa that filmmakers hope will not only inspire those already familiar with the Albanian saint, but also younger generations who are less familiar with her.
The documentary “Mother Teresa: No Greater Love,” recounts the life of Saint Teresa of Calcutta and the works of the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity.
Speaking to members of the press during the Aug. 31 Rome presentation of the documentary, Patrick Kelly, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, which created the documentary, said when he introduced the film to Pope Francis a few weeks ago, the pope responded by letter expressing his hope “that the film will make accessible the zeal for evangelization, especially for the young generations, and promote the desire to follow the Lord, who loved us first.”
Kelly said the Knights want the film “to reach a new generation with the witness and example of Mother Teresa.”
He recalled showing the film to seminarians studying at Rome’s Pontifical North American College, most of whom had no living memory of Mother Teresa, given how young they were when she died in 1997.
“So, one of the most important things we can do with this film is to introduce Mother Teresa, her life and her witness, to younger generations who desperately need that,” Kelly said, voicing hope that Mother Teresa’s witness “will inspire a new generation the way it did to so many of us who are a little bit older.”
Born in Skopje [now the capital of North Macedonia] in 1910, Mother Teresa gained international fame for her service to the “poorest of the poor” in the slums of India. She won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in 1979.
Speaking at the presentation of the documentary, which was screened at the Vatican’s film library on Wednesday, Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican’s communications department, said the film highlights the importance of communications “in preserving the memory of the good and the beautiful in a world that otherwise seems incapable of redeeming itself from evil.”
“What this film restores to us is that only giving is the way to happiness, and it is also the way to the communion of the church,” he said.
Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston also spoke at the presentation, recalling various encounters he had with Mother Teresa beginning from his time as a young seminarian in the Capuchin order.
O’Malley said he first heard Mother Teresa speak when she visited his seminary to receive a prize, before she gained worldwide recognition. Knowing most of his classmates would probably skip the event, O’Malley said he was one of around 10 seminarians who attended.
However, within a few minutes of Mother Teresa describing her work, “we were all weeping,” O’Malley said, saying “we were aware that we were in the presence of holiness.”
“Mother Teresa and her sisters go to the most hellish places and bring the light, the love, and the mercy of God. The saints are God’s masterpieces, and Mother Teresa is one of those masterpieces,” O’Malley said.
“She teaches us that in a world that’s so obsessed by success, that fidelity is the real success, and that a drop of mercy in an ocean of misery makes a difference,” he said, visibly moved.
O’Malley said Mother Teresa’s ministry focused primarily on two things: “Preaching the Gospel second, but first was taking care of the sick and works of mercy.”
Mercy, he said, “is the context in which the Gospel can be announced. That’s what Mother Teresa’s life was about: showing people the merciful face of God, assuring people that they are loved, because it’s only when people know that they are loved that they will believe our message.”
“I’m grateful for the gift of Mother Teresa in the life of the church, and in the sisters and others who serve ‘in the distressing disguise of the poor and suffering,” he said.
Sister Miryam Thérèse, Regional Superior of the Missionaries of Charity, told journalists that she found the documentary to be “very beautiful and very inspiring.”
“It was beautiful to see what God has done with Mother, and what he continues to do with everyone who follows in Mother’s footsteps of loving, whatever state of life we are. It was beautiful to see people whose lives were changed because they were touched by God’s love, the love that transforms and gives dignity to every human person,” she said.
Miryam Thérèse said she also enjoyed seeing the focus on Mother Teresa’s service, which “bends down to the least and the last,” and not only brings the presence of God, but “his love and compassion, but also joy, joy for those who give and for those who receive.”
“This is a great thing to have in today’s world, this joy of giving oneself,” she said, voicing her conviction that Mother Teresa is still “calling us to continue what God is doing in her, and now continues through us.”
“She asks us to be open to the love of God and to receive the love of God, and to give this love by our service to the poor, so that we may bring light and hope to the world of today,” she said, saying she believes the film “will bring this message to the whole world.”
According to David Naglieri, an Emmy award-winning director and the producer of the documentary, the film took around a year to make, and is the result of over 150 interviews.
It was filmed at community houses for the missionaries in places like the Amazon jungle, a center for disabled children in Kenya, a migrant center in Tijuana, and Cracolândia, an area of the city of São Paulo, Brazil that is notorious for drug trafficking and drug use in public.
“These are the darkest holes of the world that Mother Teresa entered into, and that the Missionaries of Charity continue to enter into,” Naglieri said, saying, “we were given extraordinary access, which I think makes this film so unique.”
The documentary opens in theaters this fall and will be shown in over 900 locations throughout the United States the weekend of Oct. 3-4. Producers hope to expand the film into other languages soon.
“Mother Teresa was a spiritual giant and a great saint of the 20th century, but she’s also a saint for our times. If you watch this film, that comes through,” Naglieri said.
Among those interviewed for the film is Jim Towey, author of a recent biography of Mother Teresa titled, “To Love and Be Loved: A Personal Portrait of Mother Teresa.”
Towey, a personal friend and adviser to Mother Teresa for 12 years who did the first reading at her canonization Mass in 2016, is the former president of Ave Maria University and the former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush.
He is also the founder and CEO of Aging with Dignity, a non-profit advocacy organization for the elderly.
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