By Kurt Jensen
WASHINGTON — A new documentary about St. Teresa of Kolkata, produced by the Knights of Columbus, aims to show how her mission and spirit continues in the work of her order, the Missionaries of Charity.
“Mother Teresa: No Greater Love,” directed by Emmy award-winning filmmaker David Naglieri, was shown at the Vatican on Sept. 2 and had its American premiere Sept. 11 at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington.
On Oct. 3 and 4, the film will be shown in about 900 theaters as part of Fathom Events’ Saints series, including at various AMC and Regal theaters in San Diego County. Showtimes and locations can be found at fathomevents.com.
Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly told the audience that the film intends to reach a younger audience that might not be as familiar with the work of the saint, who died 25 years ago.
A papal letter of Aug. 25 says: “Thank you for promoting this type of initiative that helps, in a creative manner, to make accessible the zeal for evangelization, especially for the young generations promoting the desire to follow the Lord who loved us first.”
The Washington screening capped a weekend of events dedicated to the saint, including a special Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the dedication of the Mother Teresa Institute in Washington, designed “to preserve, protect, promote, and develop the authentic legacy of St. Teresa of Kolkata to the Church and to the world.”
In a panel discussion about the new documentary after its screening, Naglieri said the process of filming new interviews and finding footage for the documentary took 11 months and was “very much the work of the Holy Spirit.”
The particular challenge was that there’s not much vintage film footage of Mother Teresa available. She was not a seeker of personal publicity and didn’t become well-known until British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge made a 1969 documentary, “Something Beautiful for God,” about Mother Teresa’s work beginning in 1948 in India serving the physical and spiritual needs of “the poorest of the poor.”
Mother Teresa, born in North Macedonia in 1910, went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and was elevated to sainthood by Pope Francis on Sept. 4, 2016.
“We didn’t want to do a chronological biography,” Naglieri said. Instead, the goal was to “show how her mission and her spirit continues today.”
As a result, the documentary shows the Missionaries of Charity working with children and adults in Brazil, India, Kenya and New York City. The sisters serve in more than 130 countries, and have a significant presence in the San Diego-Baja California region.
Sister Mary Bernice, a Missionary of Charity in the Bronx, New York, retells a story in the film about Mother Teresa encountering a gang-infested neighborhood in Chicago in the 1970s that quickly moved into legend.
She ordered the sisters: “Take me now to the door where they are shooting (at) us.”
“As we were walking toward the door, all these buildings surrounding us, the rifles were pointed out and kept shooting at us. Not one bullet touched us. And when we reached the door, this big man said to Mother Teresa: ‘Mother, you can’t come in here. I have business in here.’
“And Mother looked up at him and she said: ‘I, too, have business in here. Let us make a deal.’ The man was so shocked that Mother would speak this way. He said: ‘You can come in here, Mother. I can’t stop my business. But I will protect your sisters.’”