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placeholder September 19, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 16   •   Oakland, CA
St. Teresa Reflections

Writer Carrie McClish has long treasured this photo of her with St. Teresa.

Meeting Mother Teresa an 'out of body' experience

The black-and-white photo has rested on my desk for years, sharing a shelf with my first communion class photo and photos of my late parents.

Mother Teresa is seated on a chair in the middle of the photo in a room surrounded by people — some from her Missionaries of Charities community — a few people using cameras and me. The photo was taken in May 1988 by John Wright who was then a photographer for The Catholic Voice. I didn't know that he had taken it until days later when he surprised me and gave me this print.

Even though in the photo I appear as if I was all business — I was kneeling nearly in front of Mother Teresa taking notes with paper and pen and wearing a paper badge identifying me as a member of the "press" — I remember feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience. I had to remind myself to breathe, listen to her soft voice and take notes as this holy woman — recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and acclaimed as the most admirable person worldwide — was talking.

Mother Teresa came to the Oakland diocese in May 1988 to support her religious community — Missionaries of Charity — which had just opened a center to minister to people with HIV/AIDS on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. During this time people with the ailment were still being stigmatized and cast as modern day lepers.

Instead of keeping people with HIV/AIDS at arm's length or even farther at heart's length, Mother Teresa's message was simple, to the point and right from Matthew 25: love and support your neighbors with AIDS or any other sickness as you love yourself. This came from a woman herself who walked the walk, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

Looking at her you could have mistaken her diminutive size as frailty. She couldn't have weighed 100 pounds with that four-foot-something frame. Yet she had a powerful presence. She carried out her ministry one person at time among the poorest of the poor in India and in that room in an Oakland building.

After her talk Mother Teresa began giving out small metallic-looking objects which upon on closer inspections were recognized as Miraculous Medals. Oval in shape, the medals depicted Blessed Mary standing on a snake on the globe. Encircled around her are the words: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."

Mother Teresa, who had a great devotion to Mary, distributed tens of thousands of these medals during her lifetime, according to the Association of the Miraculous Medal website (www.amm.org). The medals are described as a sign of Mary's love and "God's care for each and every person."

Mother Teresa's canonization as a saint took place Sept. 4 at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. But for many of her admirers like me, the canonization was a formality because she was already a saint in all of the hearts that she touched while walking among us.

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