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NOTE: The following letter was published in the September 22, 2016 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
When I was studying in Rome, two people that I had the privilege of meeting on multiple occasions are now saints - St. John Paul II and now St. Teresa of Kolkata! On September 4, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, proclaimed Mother Teresa of Kolkata a saint, and she will henceforth be officially venerated as such. I say “officially” as so many throughout the world already regarded her as a saint. This was very evident at her beatification, which I had the honor of attending in Rome while I was serving at the North American College, America’s Seminary in the Vatican.
The first time I had the chance to meet Mother Teresa was when I was a seminarian studying in Rome. She came to the city to hear the vows of her new sisters, the Missionaries of Charity. I used to work with Mother’s sisters for my apostolic works, assisting the nuns with caring for homeless elderly men.
The sisters invited me to come to Mass with Mother early one morning, and after Mass, I was able to visit with Mother Teresa privately. She then invited me to have breakfast with her in a room off the sacristy at San Gregorio Church.
I was amazed as how accessible this “Catholic superhero” was. I was able to speak with Mother, ask questions, and hold her hand. She signed my breviary, my prayer book. “Only all for Jesus, through Mary,” she wrote. I asked for her prayers as my diaconate ordination was quickly approaching. She said she would pray for me but also told me that “the world didn’t need more priests.” I was a bit surprised, but she quickly added, “But we need more holy priests, so if you are going to be a priest, be a holy one.” As I looked at her elderly and wrinkled face, what shone through was her humility, her kindness and her undaunted love for all, especially the poorest and those most in need.
Mother was able to see everyone as God sees them, and hence loved everyone; a great example for us. Indeed, Mother was a powerful example to me and to all our world on how we should live our faith each day.
Our Gospels regularly invite us to reflect on this in our own lives; what it means to be a person of humility and faith. They challenge us to see everyone as God sees them, and hence to reach out in love to all. That is a powerful challenge to us.
As I make my way around the diocese and meet so many wonderful Catholic people, I wonder in my prayer what “Catholic superheroes” am I meeting here. We may never know until, please God, we are in heaven together.
St. Teresa is another great modern-day example to us on how we should treat each person we meet, seeing them as God sees them, reaching out in love to all, bringing the mercy and love of Jesus Himself.
Thank you for all you do to make our beautiful diocese an enduring sign of the Kingdom for our world so in need of that witness.
The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen