It was in the mid-1980s when a young Daughter of St Paul wrote to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Sr Margaret and the other sisters in her Cincinnati community were working day after day in a bookstore or going on the road bringing books to migrant camps (occasionally facing the unfriendly end of a farmer's gun), while the people they met or others just a mile away struggled to maintain a semblance of human dignity under inhuman conditions of poverty.
Appalachian poverty was very different from the poverty of the Calcutta slums, but it still called out to an apostolic heart. Impressed by the holy nun's total dedication to the desperately poor,
and aware of the deep poverty in the nearby Appalachian region as well
as in Ohio's many migrant camps, Sister Margaret found herself wondering
if the Pauline mission of media evangelization still made sense. When the letter went out in the mail, she felt she had at least done what she could to sort things out.
Then the letter came from India: "...reach out to the spiritually poor to satisfy their hunger for God, their thirst for peace, so they in turn try to relieve the hunger and homelessness of the poor and needy of your place." Of course, no one knew at the time that Mother Teresa herself felt spiritually poor, hungry for a God who seemed completely hidden, despite her fervent prayers and unceasing care for the poorest of the poor. How many others there were in the world, the future saint seemed to say, whose poverty is not visible, but no less tragic.
The saint's letter renewed Sister Margaret in her Pauline vocation. In Mother Teresa's words, she recognized the vision Blessed James Alberione had: "To provide the bread of the spirit, sharing it abundantly and adapting it to the needs" not just to one sector of society, but according to "the moral and spiritual condition of all kinds of people." And these, well nourished with the bread of God's word, would become the hands of God's mercy reaching out to transform society in every aspect.
Listen on Saturday as Sister Margaret tells her story of meeting Mother Teresa! (10 am Central on the Oklahoma Catholic Broadcasting Network; 4 pm Eastern on the Breadbox Media App.)
My community has just released a graphic novel (I still call them "comic books") about Mother Teresa; here's a sneak preview!