KOLKATA – On the evening of 16 August 1948, Mother 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.
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.