Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How Saint Mother Teresa Highlights the Pauline Mission

Mother Teresa with the author
Kentucky, 1988.
Back in 1995, I was reading the Chicago Tribune while eating lunch above our Pauline Book & Media center. I read the third of a series of articles titled “Saving our Children” describing how children in the inner-city were killed by stray bullets in gang-wars. Suddenly, with a bolt of awareness, I realized that we could go to be with them in mission.  Meeting Mother Teresa six years earlier, and receiving a letter from her in which she addressed the Pauline mission, had a lot to do with my response. In retrospect, even my sensitivity to these articles was because of her influence. The poverty I hoped to help alleviate with our Pauline mission was the poverty of resources that negated dreams for these children. It was the poverty that Blessed Alberione wrote about: “A good part of today’s world suffers from a shortage of bread. There is a far greater shortage of the spiritual bread brought by Jesus who said, ‘I am the Bread of Life.’"
"Reach out to the spiritually poor
to satisfy their hunger for God,
their thirst for peace, so they in turn
try to relive the hunger and homelessness
of the poor and needed of your place."

The year after I met Mother Teresa, the socialist regimes in Europe collapsed. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that there were expectations that the hour had come for the Christian message, “Should not Christianity try to very seriously rediscover its voice, so as to ‘introduce’ the new millennium to its message and to make it comprehensible as a general guide for the future?” This is what the Second Vatican Council had intended, he said. Following the Council, it was to become evident that Christians embrace all of life. The spirit of the age called for crossing boundaries, reaching out to the world and becoming involved in it.  Even before Vatican II, Blessed Alberione and Mother Teresa were forerunners in this movement. They already began to live as Pope Francis is now asking, to “go out to the margins with the Gospel.” Alberione's
response was to use the media to cross boundaries and bring the Gospel to the margins. Mother Teresa's response was to physically cross boundaries and be present to the poorest of the poor.

Pope Benedict XVI realized that in our technological age we are becoming a technological object while vanishing as a human subject. Progress makes all goals seem noble as a way to improve the quality of life. What will happen when we can no longer find the divine mystery in the Other but only what makes them useful, he asked? Mother Teresa modeled a presence that reflected the promise of God to be with us in every circumstance of our life – regardless of what we can make or produce.

Paulines initiated various programs in order to be 
present to the children at least once a week.
As I continued praying and reflecting on how these two holy people would respond to the spiritual poverty of the inner-city, it became obvious that a more permanent presence was necessary. In his writings, Blessed James Alberione had considered reaching many more people with the Gospel through libraries. Now, with the added impetus of Mother Teresa’s example of presence, our local Chicago community set about opening reading rooms in the inner-city. During our research, both gang members and Church personnel suggested that we open reading rooms inside the community. The children did not have the means or the safety to go to public libraries or churches to study. The Boys & Girls Club Extensions accepted our request for rooms in each location. In the early 1980's, we had visited apartments in these areas by going door-to-door with issues of The Family Magazine. Now we went door to door inviting families to the reading rooms where they could find many more titles.  After realizing that Planned Parenthood put on events inside the Boys & Girls Clubs, we created various programs for children and visited the reading rooms as often as we could.

Sr. Margaret helps someone pick out a book 
This Pauline outreach brought the Catholic Church into the inner-city. Priests, Sisters, and laity donated and assisted with the program. One volunteer joined the RCIA after reading the book St. Martin de Porres found in the reading room. A Catholic New World columnist wrote an unsolicited article that concluded with a request for books for the Pauline Reading Rooms. Donations began coming in. The Chicago Cubs and the White Sox became involved. Bookcenter customers purchased books for the children. Paint, shelves and rugs were donated. The stories that can be told about this form of evangelization are very many indeed, too many to blog about here. I want to highlight three things: the inspiration of Saint Mother Teresa, whose presence had the power of preaching; the inspiration of Blessed Alberione, whose insights into evangelization are extraordinary; the role of the Pauline Laity and Volunteers as they lived the mission and charism with us.

Brother Al Milella, SSP, calls the Pauline mission a “head-on collision with the Word either in Scripture, in a saintly life, or in the action of charity.”  Our zeal and passion to feed those hungering for God’s Word knows no boundaries. Alberione reminds us, “The congregation is not attached to the form; we are attached to the Gospel, the catechism, the Church. If records are more useful than books, then use records. And if filmstrips give the doctrine better than the catechism books, use the filmstrip.” (1964)  As I prepared to enter the Daughters of St. Paul in 1974, my mother asked why I had not considered the Missionaries of Charity. I asked, "how do you know about Mother Teresa?" My mother responded, "I read about her." "That is why I feel called to the Daughter of St. Paul," I answered. Little did I know that fourteen years later, I would kiss Mother Teresa and receive a letter from her highlighting our Pauline charism.

Here is a link to Blessed Alberione's vision for Libraries
General Association of Libraries 1921


Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP, celebrates 42 years of life and mission as a Daughter of St. Paul. With a Masters from Boston College School of Theology & Ministry, she gives presentations on the vocation and mission of the laity, media literacy, and evangelization. She directed the Association of Pauline Cooperators for 15 years and was creative editor of The Pauline Cooperator magazine. An author (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross), and Live Christ; Give Christ: Prayers for the New Evangelization. Sr. Margaret is working on two more books. You can reach her at


Association of Pauline Cooperators said...

Thanks for all the comments on Facebook and through e-mail! Sr Margaret Charles

Anonymous said...

Hi Sister Margaret,
I loved reading this article you wrote regarding the Pauline Mission and Blessed Jame Alberione, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and your connection with it all. I even liked your Mom in there.:)

Blessings with our Divine Master,
Mary Jane Madeline