Mother Teresa habit: From one stripe sari to 3 stripes

Notice single stripe sari (right) and tripple stripes (left)KOLKATA – On the evening of 16 August 1948Mother Teresa removed her Loreto Sisters (IBVM) religious habit (dress) and wore a cheap new habit of her future ‘Missionary of Charity’ Order. Her new dress consisted of a simple, cotton, white sari with blue stripe (blue is the color of Virgin Mary) along with white habits to be worn under the sari. (Please see right side photo and notice the single striped sari). For over ten years Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity Sisters used the single border sari until few pious parents of some Bengali MC Sister protested at the lack of decorum of their daughter’s religious habit. In those days, the single blue border white sari was worn by poor sweeper women working for Calcutta corporation.

Mother Teresa ( single stripe sari) with Bishop Morrow and Miss Eileen Egan of CRS in Calcutta, May 1960.

It was at this time that the American born Salesian Bishop Louis Morrow (1939-1969) of neighbouring Krishnagar diocese founded the Sisters of Mary Immaculate (SMI) on 12 December 1948. It was Bishop Morrow who developed three striped blue border white cotton sari for his Sisters, after more than two years of study, consultation and trials. The SMI Sisters had their first solemn clothing ceremony in April 1952 when they wore their current sari with three blue stripes for the first time.
It was in May 1960 that Mother Teresa approached Bishop Morrow, to seek his permission to adopt the SMI sari design for the MCs.
“More the merrier,” the delighted Bishop was reported to have told Mother Teresa encouraging her to use the SMI style sari! Since then the MC Sisters use the SMI design sari but wear it in the rural Bengali women’s style. Today the MC Sisters sari is produced at the MC run leper colony in Titagarh, outside Kolkata.
Novices wear white saris without the blue stripe. They also receive the blue striped sari when they profess. A Sister’s possessions include: three saris (one to wear, one to wash, one to mend), a pair of sandals, flour sack underclothes (used to be), a crucifix and rosary. They also have a plate and metal spoon, a canvas bag, and prayer book. In cold countries, possessions also include a cardigan. They never wear anything but sandals on their feet.

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7 Comments

Filed under Bishop Morrow, Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa, Nun's Story, Salesian, Sisters of Mary Immaculate

7 responses to “Mother Teresa habit: From one stripe sari to 3 stripes

  1. Excellent article Fr Paul. So many unknown / lesser known facts about MT packed into it.

  2. C.M. Paul

    Sr Gerturde MC, one who claims to have bought the saree for the first group of Missionaries of Charity from a shop off Harrison Road over looking the Howrah bridge insists that the MCs always had the three border saree… and they did not have to get it from Krishnagar nor get the permission of Bishop Morrow the founder of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate to use them… Sr Gertrude currently stays at Mother House on 54A Lower Circulalr Road.
    She is also a gold medalist in medcine from Calcutta University.
    On a different note, asked to explain the 1960 photo attached to this peice where Mother Teresa is seen wearing a single border saree, Sr Lynn MC, the vice-postulator says, “the must be doctored”.

    • Farrell

      Whether Sr. Gertrude bought the first saree from Harrison Road or not may be a question for others to debate, but an ORIGINAL print of the the picture posted above is lying on the table before me. Right at this moment. It’s been in my drawer for some time, as part of some ongoing work for the SMI Sisters. With respect to Sr. Lynn, it’s DEFINITELY not doctored, as I am holding it in my hand, and can see its authenticity… and age – though it is, of course, well preserved. I wonder if anyone would go through the trouble of creating an elaborate “fake” just to misdirect, many years later, that the MCs – or at least Mother Teresa – wore a single striped saree. I think the MCs work overshadows any thing they may have adopted as a habit, and no one should get touchy – if it were indeed borrowed from the SMIs of the smiling and kindly Bp. Morrow.

      I do not know where Fr. CM Paul has got his copy from, but, Father Paul, it is the same. I will email you a scan of both the Front and Reverse of the photo, which had been signed on the reverse – and otherwise copiously annotated. Guess what? The picture is a gift from an MC sister… “Happy Easter to my Father Bishop… your sister in Christ… Sr. Rose Mary M.C. (Asha)” March 30, 1975. (Picture was taken in May 1960… obviously, 15 years after it was taken… ok, you figure it out!)

    • Valerie

      I am interested, and researching Mother Teresa. I find her very fascinating. I am researching the Brother’s of Charity. I have seen a little on line, but there isn’t much. I was told there is a man in Haiti named Michael Geilenfeld who says he was the first American Brother. Is this true? Is there anyway to confirm this? Surely there would have been someone before him? You seem so knowledgeable about this subject, I hope you can help me. Peace, v

  3. Paul J. Malamel

    I read the piece by Fr. Paul and all the 4 comments.
    I think if Mother were to respond to it , she wouldn’t like to debate on such a minor subject. It is beacuse Mother was known for her humility
    which would allow her to accept the corrections offered by anybody; it would allow her to humbly take permission from Bishop Morrow or from anyone if she was inspired to do so. So there is nothing wrong in saying that the said photograph of pre’60′s would have been the right one , nor there is anything to boast about.
    [ I had worked closely with Mother and MCBrothers for more than 14 years, and I had also closely worked with the SMIs.]

  4. Sr. Kathleen Schipani, IHM

    Dear Fr. Paul,
    I am hoping you can help me. I am part of a project creating a Confirmation video in American Sign Language for youth who are deaf. Each video lesson has a saint or holy person in it. All is in sing language. We have a lesson that has Mother Teresa as part of the confirmation lesson relates the story of Mother Teresa of Calcuta. We have permission from the sisters to use many pictures of Mother Teresa. We also really want to use a picture of Mother Teresa when she is younger. IN your blog -http://cmpaul.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/mother-teresa-from-one-stripe-sari-to-3-stripes/ WE would like to have permission to also use this picture in the video lesson. Is this your picture and may we have permission to use it in the video. If is not your picture do you know who we need to ask for pemission. Thanks so much for your help. My email is srschipa@adphila.org. We also need an electronic copy of the picture in a higher resolution than on your blog. Do you have this picture and can you send it as an attachmen?. Thank you for your help with this. Blessings on your ministry.

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