When P.M. Joseph, popularly known as Calcutta Joseph, a native of Kottayam, and his wife Mariamma Joseph gave out the courtyard of their home in Kolkata to a nun who wanted to start a school for the destitute, little did they know that this would turn into a lifelong blessing.
For the nun, the school at 16, Bedford Lane was one of the first ones she started in the city. The Josephs’ random act of kindness led to a lifelong bond of friendship and love between the nun – who went on to become the world-renowned Mother Teresa – and the family. The couple, their children and grandchildren consider this to be the best blessing and fortune God has bestowed on their family.
Mr. Joseph’s grandchild Chacko Simon, who is an advocate, spoke to The Kochi Post. Ahead of the Canonization of Mother Teresa, when she will be proclaimed a saint, Mr. Chacko shared some of his memories about the family’s association with Mother Teresa.
“Mother Teresa was a ‘living saint’. She inspired and helped many people to come closer to God and countless others to live and die with dignity. She was the most humble person we ever met. At the same time, she was the most confident advocate for the cause of the poor. She would leave no stone unturned when it came to seeking help for her inmates,” says Mr. Chacko.
He recalls the miracle that Mother Teresa’s intervention played in his family. His parents Philomena Simon (Mr. Joseph’s daughter) and Simon James did not have children even after nine years of marriage. Being very worried, they requested Mother Teresa to pray for them. She gave them Mother Mary’s medal and told them to recite the prayer ‘Mary Mother of Jesus, give us a baby’ every day.
“After around three months, my mother conceived her first child (me). Following that, she gave birth to three more children – Joseph Simon, Paul Simon and Anna Maria Simon. Every time before she would travel to Kottayam for her delivery, my mother would seek Mother Teresa’s blessings. And each time, Mother Teresa would bless her by drawing a Sign of the Cross on her stomach. The third time she went (in 1993), Mother Teresa drew a Sign of the Cross on her stomach as usual, and then called her back to draw another one. At that time, my mother and her relatives thought that Mother Teresa must have forgotten that she did it the first time. However, it turned out that my mother was to deliver twins and this was unknown to us till the first baby came out and her doctor informed her that there was one more baby,” he says.
When Mr. Joseph still lived in Kolkata, his eight children (Mathew, Paul, Annie, Maria, Philomena, Elizabeth, Josephine and Rita) used to actively do volunteer work for the Missionaries of Charity. In fact, Mother Teresa used to frequently travel in Mr. Joseph’s Fiat car and this car has still been preserved by the family in Kottayam.
In 1974, when Mother Teresa came to Kerala, she had visited both their homes in Kottayam. At this time, she expressed her desire to start a convent/chapel at one of the homes. Since then, the family’s home has been converted into the Missionaries of Charity convent/chapel in Kottayam.
When asked about the many controversies surrounding Mother Teresa, Mr. Chacko said that the allegation of proselytization is the worst of them all.
“Controversies have not spared anyone in our generation and Mother Teresa was no exception to that, in spite of the great work she did all throughout her life. The only factor that motivated her to help someone was the fact that the person was a human being. She saw God in each human being, irrespective of his/her religion. As true followers of the teachings of Jesus Christ and Mother Teresa, all we (the family) should do is to pray for those who raise such unfounded allegations. That is what would have made Mother Teresa happier,” he says.
The family continues to uphold and cherish the relationship they shared with Mother Teresa. While his parents are in the Vatican to witness the Canonization, Mr. Chacko hopes to take part in the celebrations that will later be held at Kolkata.