Most people don’t know this but Mother Teresa started an apostolate for people who wanted to join the Missionaries of Charity but were too sick or disabled to join. It’s called the Sick and Suffering Co-worker apostolate, and currently there are about 5,000 people in it.
The following is taken from a Word Among Us article entitled, “Mother Teresa’s Spiritual Powerhouse”:
“In 1952, Jacqueline de Decker received a letter from Mother Teresa. It contained a request that changed her life. Would she offer all her suffering to God for Mother and the work among the poor? And would she find others to do the same?
Why not become spiritually bound to our society which you love so dearly? While we work in the slums, you share in the merit, the prayers, and the work, with your suffering and prayers. The work here is tremendous and needs workers, it is true, but I also need souls like yours to pray and suffer.
Mother Teresa’s words brought Jacqueline the realization that God had not rejected her. On the contrary, He was granting her a special role: to offer joyfully her suffering and pain in intercession for Mother Teresa. And so began the Link for Sick and Suffering Co-Workers. As the first missionaries started to join the solitary nun in the slums, Jacqueline sought among her fellow patients for those prepared to pray for an adopted sister (or, in time, brother), to write them once or twice a year, and above all to accept from the heart the mystery of suffering offered in faith and love for the work of a virtual stranger in a far distant land. As Mother Teresa wrote: “When the work is very hard, I think of each one of you, and tell God: ‘Look at my suffering children and for their love bless this work,’ and it works immediately. So you see you are our treasure house, the power house of the Missionaries of Charity.”
By 1980, Jacqueline had undergone thirty-four operations for her illness, which was never given an official medical label. She called it the GGD, or “God-Given Disease”—her recognition that emptiness, “failure,” and weakness were the means by which God used her. Also by 1980, some three thousand Sick and Suffering Co-Workers in many countries had accepted the challenge of forming a kind of “spiritual powerhouse” for their more overtly active sisters and brothers.”
I went to the Missionaries of Charity house in Dallas yesterday, and became one of these Sick and Suffering Co-Workers. I don’t know who I will be linked with yet, but I have the feeling already that it will be a huge blessing. Thank God for Mother Teresa, and thank God for this wonderful apostolate!
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” —Mother