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Celeste van Exem
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Religious Figure
    (October 4, 1908-September 20, 1993)
    Born in Belgium
    Belgian Jesuit priest
    Calcutta-based missionary for close to fifty years (1944-93)
    Graduate of Louvain University, in Belgium
    Member of the Society of Jesus
    Famous as the spiritual adviser and mentor to Mother Teresa
    Letters exchanged between the two, over a 65-year period, were later compiled into a controversial memoir, 'Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light' (published in 1997)
    Portrayed by Max Von Sydow in the film adaptation of the book, 'The Letters' (2015)
    He spent his later years as a recluse in the exclusive St. Xavier's College, in Calcutta.
    His plans to actively engage with Calcutta's Muslim population were never fully realized in his lifetime.
    He made it known to the Missionaries of Charity that he had five boxes of materials related to his correspondence with Mother Teresa.
    He admitted that she had beseeched him, on multiple occasions, to destroy all the documents. Needless to say, he didn't oblige.
    The publication of his private letters with Mother Teresa set off an argument as to whether or not she was 'worthy of Sainthood' because she admitted to him that she had doubts about her mission and whether God had 'abandoned her.'
    The work later served as the template for a widely-panned Mother Teresa biopic, which one critic said was guilty of 'smothering a fascinating real-life story under a bland hagiography.'
    He guided Mother Teresa during the most intense and crucial periods of her fifty-plus year career.
    He studied extensively in Egypt and Syria.
    His travels throughout the Middle East resulted in his attaining a proficiency in Arabic and knowledge of Islam.
    This served him well when he embarked on his interfaith teaching mission in Calcutta, in 1938, as he quickly won over many Indian Muslims as friends.
    During the Second World War, he was asked to perform Mass at Loreto School in Calcutta's Entally suburb; there, he met a young Albanian nun by the name of Teresa.
    He was a major influence on the formation and running of the Missionaries of Charity, including drafting the constitution for the organization.
    His work with Calcutta's leper community set a clear precedent for Mother Teresa's later - more expansive - efforts on their behalf.
    He also helped Mother Teresa to present her wish to break from the Loreto order and live within the slums of Calcutta alone, to the Archbishop of Calcutta.
    Mother Teresa learned of his death while undergoing hospitalization for a blood clot (she declined to say much on the subject, but considering that he had sent a letter to her only five days prior the pain must have been great).
    When Max Von Sydow asked William Riead for help in finding motivation to play Exem, Riead responded 'The whole world looked up to Mother Teresa. And Mother Teresa looked up to Father van Exem.'
    The letters shared between him and his pupil served as Exhibit A in the final process as to whether she was worthy of Canonization; after an intercession by Pope Francis I, she was formally recognized as a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church (Sept. 4, 2016)

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair

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