by Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle
Non-fiction, 192 pages
Popular Catholic author, and ETWN series host, Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle was a young mother when her life was changed forever with an encounter with the 20th Century’s most famous woman, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in her convent in Washington DC. . In “Mother Teresa and Me” Donna tells the story of a decade of friendship, beginning each chapter with a letter to her from Mother Teresa, and sharing how their meeting became the inspiration for her own apostolate, sharing her message of self-giving love. At first, Donna, is awed by the contact with the celebrity “In fact, I think my heart stopped for that moment. This same woman who traveled the world ministering to the “poorest of the poor”, a woman highly respected by popes and presidents and millions of people, had just spoken to . . .me”. Soon, Mother Teresa’s warmth overcame Donna’s awe and they had a conversation which flowed easily. “That first encounter with the saint . . .penetrated my heart, and etched an unforgettable message that remains to this day.”
In her motherly style, Donna engages the reader in her close spiritual friendship with the future saint. Photocopies of Mother Teresa’s letters and photos of her with Donna and her children add to the feeling that you are sitting on a sofa with Donna, pouring through her personal scrapbook, sharing her treasured memories of her best friend and mentor. Her self effacing style lends charm to her account of spending a weekend with homeless women in the Missionaries of Charity shelter in
Mother Teresa’s counsels Donna in times of joy; the birth of her son Joseph, and consoles her in times of suffering; when a car accident left her with constant pain. Mother Teresa presides over the birth of Donna’s apostolate to console the suffering by using her unique gifts “I am very glad that you are using this gift God gave you to spread His love and mercy to all”. She urges Donna to use her suffering in her apostolate; “May you yourself be a Veronica to Jesus who is suffering in so many people; the sick, the incurables, the aged, and the unwanted- to bring them solace and strength.”
Donna shares in riveting detail how her apostolate brought joy and peace to neighbors and strangers alike, as Mother Teresa’s prayers and wisdom began to have a ripple effect through her to touch thousands. She quotes from Scripture and Pope John Paul II to create a brief yet profound introduction to Mother Teresa’s life and spirituality. Through the power of personal testimony the towering figure of Mother Teresa becomes a beloved friend who inspires the reader to become Christ to the suffering all around us.
I was fortunate to see Mother Teresa address my diocese in 1985, and to receive a letter from her in 1990, inviting me to visit her convent in the
Bronx. Her profound humility and devotion to serve Christ in the poor inspired my work as a social worker and teacher of immigrants, but most of all, to serve my family in love. I realized that I was fortunate to have had such contact with Mother, and cherish her parting words to me in her letter, “Put your hand in Mary’s hand and she will lead you to Jesus”. Since Mother has left our midst, such firsthand accounts as Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book “Mother Teresa and Me” are precious and serve to provide the emotional immediacy of an encounter with sanctity which can transform our hearts into fertile ground for Christ’s love to grow.