by Colette Livermore
A William Heinemann Book. Australian, biographical, adult non-fiction. Published by Random House. Softcover rrp $34.95
Guest Reviewer - Jo Burnell
Mother Theresa is renowned world-wide for her work with the poor. Books and films depict her work in a heroic, almost romantic light. Have you ever wondered what life in her Order is like? Colette Livermore’s account of her journey from entry, through the various stages of traineeship and on into full profession allows a peek inside this secluded world.
Stories of daily life, service, silence and prayer are realistic. Although I did not enter the order until three years after Colette had left, the majority of her descriptions still ring true. The Missionaries of Charity have preserved some ancient practices of austerity that other orders gave up with the coming of the Second Vatican Council. These may seem crazy to some, even self-destructive, but in the context of religious life, they are supposed to bring balance in the face of temptation.
Colette described herself as ‘not particularly religious’ before she joined. She was attracted by a desire to help the poor, not by spirituality or religious practices. It is astonishing that she persevered for eleven years. Her described struggles are at times embittered and frustrated. This is understandable, under the circumstances. Hope Endures is disturbing as it tracks Colette’s loss of faith and her journey to agnosticism, but it resonates with the questions of humankind. Is there a God? Why do people suffer? Is there anything to look forward to after death?
While Hope Endures is the story of Colette’s journey, it is not the story of all who entered the Missionaries of Charity or of all those who left. Many, like myself, settle happily back into secular life, while others spend many years searching for a place they can call home. Many Sisters who remain in the Order are settled and fulfilled; find this way of life liberating. Unfortunately, the story of a happy religious in The Missionaries of Charity may never be written, due to the strictly private life of these Contemplatives in Action.
Hope Endures is a beginning. Well worth a read, if this sort of thing intrigues you.