Tuesday 21 November 2017

She was an 'ordinary sister', says Irish nun who worked with Teresa

President Mary Robinson meets Mother Teresa in 1993 at Áras an Uachtaráin
President Mary Robinson meets Mother Teresa in 1993 at Áras an Uachtaráin

Sarah MacDonald

Among the hundreds of thousands of devotees around the world celebrating the canonisation of Mother Teresa was one Irish nun who worked with the 'Saint of the Gutters' in Kolkata.

Sr Philomena O'Dowd featured in the BBC's 'Songs of Praise' yesterday in a programme celebrating the Catholic Church's newest saint and her roots in Dublin and her involvement with an Irish religious order before she founded the Missionaries of Charity.

Sr Philomena told BBC presenter Ann Widdecombe that she met Mother Teresa through the orphanage in Loreto Entally in Kolkata, where abandoned children found by the diminutive saint were sent to be looked after and educated.

"I had the privilege of meeting her through those little children - I also met her on occasions when we had religious celebrations," recalled the Irish nun who is now living in Ireland.

Asked whether she thought Teresa was a saint in those days, Sr Philomena replied, "In those days she was just an ordinary sister - like all of us.

"But we were always aware of the great work she was doing and that she was fulfilling the precepts of the gospel. 'As long you did it to one of my least you did it to me.' Not only did she do that herself but she led others."

Mother Teresa began her religious life with the Loreto Sisters in Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham, Dublin on October 12, 1928.

In 1929, she set sail for India from Ireland accompanied by two other Loreto nuns, one of whom was from Yugoslavia and the other was Sr John Berchmans Joyce from Galway.

The future saint professed her vows in Loreto Darjeeling and later taught Catechism and Geography at Loreto Convent Entally in Calcutta before she was appointed school principal there.

She was a member of the Loreto order for 20 years before she heard a 'call within a call' to serve the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta in 1948. This led to her leaving the Loreto order and founding her own order.

The BBC programme on Mother Teresa also included a rendition of 'You Raise Me Up' by Westlife's Shane Filan and an interview with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

The archbishop paid tribute to Mother Teresa's humility.

He described the nun, who died in 1997, as having lived her life according to her insights and her principles.

Irish Independent

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