Thousands of Mother Teresa items archived by Catholic University

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

(CNS) – Not many people know that Blessed Teresa of Kolkata’s first visit to
the United States was a trip to Las Vegas — in 1960, when the Strip was still

didn’t go to cleanse the casinos of their corruption. She went to speak at the
convention of the National Council of Catholic Women.

tidbit is one of an untold number of facts and perspectives that can be gleaned
from examining the Mother Teresa Collection that resides within the archives at
The Catholic University of America.

collection has a copy of Mother Teresa’s 1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance
speech, autographed by the founder of the Missionaries of Charity herself.
There are also two copies of the Marvel Comics illustrated biography of her
life, issued in 1983, one year after Marvel successfully published a comic-book
biography of St. John Paul II.

There also are, in a burlap bag, 2,000 tiny coins bearing Mother Teresa’s likeness
struck for the United Nations for its 1975 observance of the Year of the Woman.

without the coins, there are an estimated 10,000 items in the collection,
according to Shane MacDonald, an archives technician at the university who
spent four months organizing and cataloging the materials.

With Mother
Teresa’s canonization set for Sept. 4, the collection will represent the
archives’ first collection dedicated to a saint, MacDonald said. While Catholic
University has the chairs St. John Paul II used when he celebrated Mass in
Washington, it does not represent a detailed collection like that for Blessed Teresa.

items came from Eileen Egan, who had worked for Catholic Relief Services, the
U.S. bishops’ overseas aid and development agency, when it was founded in 1943 as War Relief
Services during World War II. As part of her work in Asia, Egan was told of a
nun in India who was ministering to the poor.

traveled to Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, in 1955 and met Mother Teresa. She
was convinced of the value of the nun’s work among the poor in the city’s
teeming slums and struck up a friendship with her.

friendship led to a correspondence stretching over four decades. MacDonald, who
has read much of the letters from Mother Teresa to Egan that are in the
collection — Egan’s part of the correspondence appears lost to history — said Egan
became an advocate for Mother Teresa’s ministry. It was Egan, for instance,
who convinced the reluctant Macedonian-born nun, a virtual unknown, to travel to Las Vegas to address the NCCW.

told Catholic News Service in an Aug. 30 interview that Mother Teresa, who had
entered religious life with the Sisters of Loreto, expressed similar unease
about returning to Ireland, where she had ministered before the war, for the
first time in 30 years because she was uncertain of her reception.

who routinely obtained travel documents for others because of her work at CRS, also
did so for Mother Teresa as she coaxed the nun to travel more to spread her
message of love and mercy, MacDonald said. She later wrote a definitive
biography of the future saint, “Such A Vision: Mother Teresa, the Spirit, and the

As Mother
Teresa’s ministry began to captivate the imaginations of people, support
organizations for her and the Missionaries of Charity sprang up in the United
States, Malta, Germany and elsewhere. Their newsletters are also part of the

So too
are seldom-seen photographs of Mother Teresa, some in color but many in
black-and-white, as she crisscrossed the world, opening new Missionaries of
Charity communities in far-flung countries and speaking before attentive

Not everything
in the Mother Teresa Collection is tucked away in dark temperature-controlled
rooms at the University. A sampling of some of the items was put on
display at the university’s student center prior to the canonization.

are welcome to view and study the materials. MacDonald said some of the
visitors have been high school students working on class projects. “This is one
way to make history come alive for them,” he said.

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