In honor of Blessed Mother Teresa becoming Saint Teresa of Calcutta, we asked the faculty and staff at Mundelein to share any stories of when they encountered this modern-day saint.
Father Joseph Henchey, C.S.S., S.T.D. ( Adjunct Spiritual Director) has his own personal connection to Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
In the 1960s, Father Henchey was a young member of the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata (Stigmatine order). He had received an advanced degree of Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) in 1956 and was sent back to Rome for his doctorate. While there, he met the Missionaries of Charity and found they were in need of a retreat director, a position which he was offered and gladly accepted. That began a 19-year relationship with their order in Rome.
On December 8, 1973, their Mother Superior was coming in for the retreat – Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Father Henchey remembered the date because it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Over the next 15 years of retreats, Mother Teresa came to Rome to participate in five that Father Henchey led. He was honored to have the opportunity to minister to her when she spent so much of her time ministering to others. And her humble nature was evident from their first encounter. During the first retreat, Father Henchey arrived a bit early on a Saturday morning, and saw the novices cleaning up their house. And there was Mother Teresa with them, sweeping the floor.
“After the retreat, she would come in for tea, and she always sat on the floor. The first time that this happened, I arrived before her and there was only one chair. Assuming that it was for Mother, I sat on the floor with the novices. When she entered, she told me to sit in the chair. That is was there for the priest. She was as genuine as I can imagine. There was no gushing over anything. She was very direct, and an absolutely lovely human being.”
Mundelein continues to be inspired and prayerfully aware of the examples laid out by the now Sainted Mother Teresa, and are honored to have a connection to her through Father Henchey.
In the photos below, Father Henchey shows off the photo given to him by the Missionaries of Charity, and the note of thanks written to him by Mother Teresa on the back.
Sara Larkin (Center for Speech and Writing)
“Christmas Meal at Shishu Bhavan”
“At Christmastime in 1975, Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity organized a mid-day substantial meal for people in need, served at their orphanage in Kolkata (then Calcutta), India – Shishu Bhavan.
The meal of rice, dahl and vegetables was generously portioned out on large firm banana leaves (environmentally friendly and economical “disposable dishes”). The many people in line were served by Mother Teresa, other sisters of her order and volunteers. I was privileged to witness the process, trying to be helpful.
My special memory was of Mother Teresa praising the rice that had been sent as a gift for the meal by John Cardinal Cody, Archdiocese of Chicago, with logistical help from CRS (Catholic Relief Services). Because the sisters could cook and serve the rice without having to pick through it for stones or insects, Mother proclaimed it “pukka” rice (the Hindi/Bengali adjective used by the locals to describe something of quality).
One of the 41-year-old photos below shows Mother Teresa with a glimpse of 25-year-old me behind her, and in the other photo Mother Teresa is speaking with another volunteer.”