One of the most beautiful hearts belonged to a simple woman who lived with the sick, homeless and rejected people. At a very young age, she already felt strongly the call of God to be a missionary. She was Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Macedonia in 1910 from an Albanian couple, she left her hometown at the age of 18 to join an Irish community of nuns, the Sisters of Loreto, with missions in India. After her training in Ireland, she was sent to India where she took her vows as a nun.
While in India, the sufferings and poverty that she saw led her to leave the convent and devote herself to caring for the poorest of the poor. With practically nothing but her missionary spirit and her belief in the Divine Providence, she founded "The Missionaries of Charity." She carried out its mission with the support of volunteer helpers and financial help from all over.
Mother Teresa's works of mission have been an inspiration to all peoples of the world. I have always admired her. Likewise, there is another woman whom I also admired like her from my hometown in the Philippines.
Known to many as Tita Neneng, her missionary works may not be of equal footing with that of Mother Teresa's. But she also selflessly devoted her last days on earth helping and serving the poor, needy and hungry.
Tita Neneng, also known as Trinidad Mangahas, loved God and had shown that by helping many people in need. When she and her best friend Tita Julie, also a good servant of God, were concessionaires of a hospital cafeteria, Tita Neneng put many kids from poor families to school. She used her income to provide scholarship grants to some deserving high school students in her hometown for many years. Many people ran to her for all kinds of financial help.
When she had given up her business, she decided to serve at a place for the poor and the abandoned, known as Anawim.
In Anawim, which was founded by LOJ's leader Bo Sanchez and nestled at a tiny little town of Montalban, Philippines, the elderly and the orphaned kids found hope each day from the company of Tita Neneng. They were fed with love and the foods served from Anawim's kitchen. Every food prepared from that kitchen was from Tita Neneng's ideas and menus. She loved cooking and it was in the kitchen where she had best used her gifts to serve the Lord.
Donors and visitors of Anawim had always been greeted by the welcoming smiles of Tita Neneng, its staff workers and orphaned residents.
When I used to visit her at Anawim, she would always have lots of stories to tell. She would recount what she did for the day and how she enjoyed living with the elderly residents there. She loved to tell about Omar, an abandoned boy taken in by Anawim from the street. Many times over, she said she was happy and contented with her life and would not trade Anawim for anything else.
I loved that woman. She taught me a lot of lessons in life. She, in fact, led me to know Jesus as my Savior. And I had literally seen in her what Jesus told a man in the Bible: "He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27, NIV).
In 2008, our Lord took her from us. She succumbed to a massive heart attack. I felt I had lost one precious person in my life, who had helped me in many ways too. I would always remember her for her charity and compassion.
For me, she had the same beautiful heart that Mother Teresa had. And their best legacies were charity and compassion.
"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if that drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. I do not agree with the big way of doing things." - Mother Teresa (1910-1997).