Lay Missionaries of Charity Wrap Up Conference

Born in 1984, Group Has 1,000 Consecrated Members

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ROME, JULY 15, 2002 ( Asked what unites the Missionaries of Charity with the lay movement linked to the congregation, Father Sebastian Vazhakala says: "The vocation is one: to be saints."

His comment came as the third international congress of the Lay Missionaries of Charity came to a close here Sunday.

Father Vazhakala, who is the first priest of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta were co-founders of the lay movement, which came into being April 16, 1984.

On that day, four lay people, all married, made their "private vows" in the Chapel of the Missionaries of Charity, in Rome.

For about two years the group had studied John Paul II's apostolic exhortation Then, on Tuesday of Holy Week, the first four took their private vows in the presence of Mother Teresa.

Today, more than 1,000 people worldwide have consecrated themselves in the movement, and several hundred are in the process of formation.

Married and single members, adhering to the spirit and charism of the Missionaries of Charity family, make (juridically) private vows of chastity (conjugal), poverty, obedience and, as a fourth vow, of wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor, beginning with members of their own family.

The lay missionaries offer worship everywhere by the holiness of their lives expressed through prayer, penance and works of mercy, following the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

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The Missionaries of Charity, meanwhile, held their first General Chapter in Rome at the same time.