[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]BAILEYS HARBOR — A lot of people were glued to TV sets Sept. 4 when Blessed Mother Teresa became St. Teresa in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica, including her one-time chauffeur.
Mother Mary Catherine, founder of the Missionaries of the Word based in Baileys Harbor, spent 10 years with the Missionaries of Charity working in many capacities, including that of Mother Teresa’s chauffeur.
“The year before I was to take final vows, they sent me home because I have asthma,” she told The Compass in 2014, the year she professed her final vows and became Mother Catherine.
“I had an invitation to go to Rome for the canonization, and another to join my MC sisters in the Chicago house,” she said in late August. “But I wished to spend that day with my sisters (here) rejoicing for the gift of Mother’s life and the formation I was blessed with during my time with her.”
Mother Mary Catherine, formerly Peggy Duemling, was 24 when she met Mother Teresa in 1986 in the South Bronx. That first impression of her never changed: simplicity and a “single-hearted” focus on Jesus.
“That was the core of Mother,” Mother Mary Catherine said. “Everything with Mother came down to the five fingers on her right hand, one word for each, a summation of Matthew 25: You Did It To Me.
“She was all for Jesus, and that meant a deep and genuine presence to whatever person was before her, out of deep respect for the human person made in the image and likeness of God,” she added.
During her 10 years with the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Mary Catherine had a huge variety of duties, depending on which house she was in at the time. She worked in the AIDS hospice, visited prisoners on death row at San Quentin, worked at homes for unwed mothers and their children, for the elderly and at a men’s shelter. She did street evangelization in marginalized areas of cities, worked with gangs and teens in detention, ministered to teens and families, spent time in soup kitchens and helped out with parish work.
“My favorite work was the work given to me at the time,” she said.
But driving Mother Teresa when she came to visit were, admittedly, special times. She always felt she was in the presence of a very holy person — and it left her a little tongue-tied, so to speak.
“I can recall Mother sitting next to me in the van while I was driving, and Mother was not able to get her seat belt into the shaft to lock it in place,” said Mother Mary Catherine. “I was just a postulant, had been in the order for maybe eight months, and I wasn’t sure if I should help her or wait or what. I just felt so ‘small’ spiritually next to Mother.
“She looked up at me and said, ‘Sister, help Mother.’ Then I quickly reached over to click the seat belt in place. She put her big Albanian hands on my head and said, ‘God bless you,’ and then she went right back to praying her rosary — and she beamed a bright smile at me and those in the back seat.”
Mother Teresa’s small stature and quiet voice may have disguised the strength and fire that lay beneath the surface. She may have been seen as “meek and mild,” but in the wrong sense.
“People often equate meekness and mildness for this ‘soft person,’ bendable and easy going, malleable,” Mother Mary Catherine said. “That was not Mother. When she prayed and believed with all her heart that Jesus wanted something, she was not to be bulldozed. She wasn’t outspoken, but she held her foot right where she felt the Lord asked her to. That was clear, and we all loved it.”
Mother Mary Catherine said one thing she remembers most is Mother Teresa’s bright blue eyes.
“When she looked into yours, it made you think about what you were actually saying because it was crystal clear that she was totally listening. It was being in the presence of truth, with no pretension, and you couldn’t pretend around Mother, either. She read you like a book.”
What would Mother Mary Catherine like others to know about the saintly nun?
“That she laughed like a child, was simple like a child, loved without thinking about who was watching, listened as if there were nothing else on her plate, was attuned and sensitive to the other, and did the little things that others passed over,” she said. “She was joyful, that is who I know Mother to be; joyful and prayerful.”
Mother Mary Catherine learned she would not be able to take final vows with the Missionaries of Charity only one month after Mother Teresa died. She accepted the decision as God’s will, went back to her home in Wisconsin, and remained in private vows under the local bishop.
A circuitous route led her to Green Bay and, with the approval of Bishop Ricken, to the establishment of the Missionaries of the Word, a public association of the faithful, according to canon law. The community is based at the St. Joseph Formation Center in Baileys Harbor. They minister to the youth and adults of the diocese, forming disciples of Jesus for the “new evangelization.” Their charism is “total abandonment to the Father’s love.”
Although the new order could not be a carbon copy of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Mary Catherine still has many friends from that first phase of her religious life, and she is grateful for all she learned from them.
Her relationship with Mother Teresa was as a spiritual daughter to a spiritual mother, and it’s evident, when visiting the formation center, that Mother Mary Catherine’s new order practices that same kind of easy, family atmosphere. It’s also evident from her own happy face, and that of her sisters, that they know that same joy of Mother Teresa.
“My favorite quote of Mother Teresa is: ‘Holiness comes down to one word: Yes. Yes to God, giving whatever he takes, and taking whatever he gives with a big smile. That is holiness.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Norbertines celebrate St. Teresa’s canonization Sept. 15
DE PERE —The Norbertine Community, some of whom worked with St. Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity in Peru, is celebrating her canonization with an evening of story, art and exhibits.
“A Celebration of the Canonization of Blessed Teresa” is being held on Thursday, Sept. 15, 6:30-8 p.m., at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality at St. Norbert Abbey, 1016 N. Broadway, De Pere.
Norbertine Fr. Rod Fenzl will share his experiences of working directly with St. Teresa and her sisters. Storyteller Betty Manion will offer a first-person portrayal of this new saint, and Norberine Fr. Stephen Rossey will unveil an art exhibit with letters written to the Norbertine Community by St. Teresa. The evening concludes with a coffee and dessert reception.
Registration is required by September 12. The cost of $5 includes exhibit, presentation, coffee, and dessert.
For more information and to register, go to www.norbertines.org or call (920) 337.4315.
Presentation on St. Teresa Sept. 19
APPLETON — A sister who served with Mother Teresa will share her insider’s view of the church’s newest saint when she speaks at Xavier High School on Sept. 19.
Mother Mary Catherine’s talk, “A Saint for Our Times: Following in the Bold Steps of Mother Teresa,” will begin at 7 p.m. in the Xavier Fine Arts Theatre, 1600 W. Prospect Ave. The event is open to all, and no ticket is needed.
The presentation will kick off a year of events sponsored by CIA-Faith Mission Operatives, an all-volunteer, lay ministry based in the Diocese of Green Bay.
In 1986, then-Sr. Mary Catherine was only 24 years old when she met Mother Teresa in the South Bronx of New York City. She came to New York as a member of Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity.
The Door County resident is now called “Mother” Mary Catherine because she leads a new community of religious women established by Green Bay Diocese Bishop David Ricken in 2014. Called Missionaries of the Word, the order helps staff expedition retreats for teens and young adults.
The CIA-Faith Mission Operatives event series is called “Return to the Garden” and will feature a speaker once a month at the Xavier Theatre. It is designed to help Catholics investigate their faith and “take back the peace the world so often steals.”
For information call (920) 450-3025 or visit sites.google.com/site/ciafmo.[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]