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Mother Teresa legacy thriving

Though months have passed since the world-renowned Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa of Calcutta died, her Missionaries of Charity haven't slowed down a bit. Quite the contrary. They are pressing forward with a firmer resolve in their never-ending quest to comfort and assist the poor.

So says Father Regis Scanlon, who is in Utah this weekend to address various Catholic congregations along the Wasatch Front. Scanlon is a member of the spiritual formation team that trains the 5,000 nuns who serve in Mother Teresa's organization throughout the world."Mother Teresa was very conscientious that the loyalty be to Jesus Christ and the church, not to her," said Scanlon. "It hurt personally, but it didn't hurt the work that has been going on. The sisters all figure she does more for them in heaven than she was able to do for them here on earth. They carry on her example and her work.

"Now that she's gone, they realize they can't rest on her laurels. They are more inspired than ever and there's a greater thrust to the work. The legacy she left by her example is one of giving her life for Christ."

Scanlon, who resides in Denver and appears on the Eternal World Television Network series "Crucial Questions, Catholic Answers," tours many of the impoverished, remote areas of the world - from Madagascar to South Africa to Mexico - to observe the service being rendered by the sisters. He marvels at their joyful demeanor and unflappable dedication amid difficult situations.

"Where there are slums and desperate situations, that's where the sisters are," he said. "When they bathe, they just take a bucket and dump it over themselves. Even if places where showers are available, they don't use them. Where ever they are, they live the same. They make sacrifices. They've got to have some unhappy sisters, but they're sure not obvious. They're walking saints. It makes you believe in God, because there is something impelling them, and they couldn't do this without help from above."

Scanlon recalls visiting Calcutta, where people are too poor to properly care for those who are terminally ill or ravaged by disease, so they are left in the streets to rot. "I saw a man with worms crawling from his flesh, and I watched these sisters pick him up and wash him," he said. "Before dying, he knew he was loved."

When Scanlon trains the nuns, he focuses on two areas: human development and Catholic doctrine. "I teach academic classes to help them when they deal with people in such trying circumstances, like orphanages. They deal with girls who have been abused," he said. "On the other end, what I teach is very religious in nature, with catechism as the primary focus. The sisters help the people, not by condemning them or trying to push them into the church, but rather they allow people to have access to the church if they so desire. The people won't accept the doctrine without love."

The majority of the Missionaries of Charity are from India, where Mother Teresa founded a religious order in Calcutta in 1950. There are branches in about 50 Indian cities and 30 other countries. Mother Teresa, who died last September at the age of 87, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work with the poor. Scanlon fondly remembers his one and only meeting with the so-called "saint of the gutters" years ago.

"I met with her for an hour and she let me know her about her philosophy," he said. "Mother Teresa didn't believe in insurance for the sisters. She had a deep trust in God for protection. She believed God would protect and sustain her and the sisters. That's the best way to sum her up, her love and trust in divine providence for the sake of the poor."

And in her absence, the legacy continues.