Visit touched E. Side area Meeting: She brought a message of hope for residents of the Hopkins-Middle East neighborhood and perhaps had a hand in a healing.

September 06, 1997|By John Rivera and Christian Ewell | John Rivera and Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Jamie Stiehm contributed to this article.

An East Baltimore neighborhood where drugs are rampant and violence commonplace remembered yesterday a visit by a small, stooped woman who offered a ray of hope and, perhaps, a miracle.

It was at the intersection of Collington and Ashland avenues, near where a group of men were shooting a game of craps yesterday afternoon, that Mother Teresa came in May 1996 to visit her Missionaries of Charity at the Gift of Hope Convent. The Hopkins-Middle East neighborhood turned out in force to see what the fuss was all about.

"People just came out and there was a sense of 'there is a holy person among us,' " said the Rev. John McLoughlin, a Redemptorist priest who is associate pastor of the adjacent St. Wenceslaus Roman Catholic Church.

Mother Teresa's ministry was to the poorest of the poor, and there are plenty of poor people in East Baltimore. Many who waited in the rain to see her on that rainy day last year may not have known exactly who she was, but they were nevertheless drawn to her.

"Living in East Baltimore, I've seen people die on the street," McLoughlin said. "When she came, everyone was in awe, and there was a sense of peace, a sense of joy, a sense of unity. Because people felt the presence of God here on the street."

Constance Pierce, 31, a barmaid who lives at St. Wenceslaus Apartments, said she really didn't know much about Mother Teresa before she visited that day, but she came to see her out of curiosity. A lot of people stood in line to shake Mother Teresa's hand, and Pierce was one of them.

"Something went through me, like a warm chill, as she shook my hand. It was as if I had touched God," Pierce said.

"The people thought that she could heal them. A lot of people felt that she would make things better in their life. I hoped that she would pray for me and make things better in my life," Pierce said.

That hope, she said, remains even after Mother Teresa's death. "It will still be there, even though she has passed. It will always be there."

McLoughlin believes that Mother Teresa, whose order cares for the dying, may have had a hand in a healing that day. A woman approached him that day and said she wanted a blessing for her 4-year-old grandson who was suffering from AIDS. She gave him a handwritten note asking for the blessing, he said. He gave the note to Mother Teresa, and she came over, blessed the child and gave him a medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

McLoughlin didn't give it another thought until about six months ago, when he got a call. "This woman said, 'You might not remember me, but Mother Teresa prayed over my grandson,' " McLoughlin said. "He had full-blown AIDS, and now he's fine. He's in remission.

"Call it a miracle; call it a coincidence," McLoughlin said. "I think it was divine intervention myself."

People all over Maryland mourned the death of Mother Teresa yesterday.

Employees at the Baltimore offices of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) gathered in their St. Stephen's Chapel soon after hearing of Mother Teresa's death to pray and offer recollections. When she visited Baltimore last year, Mother Teresa was drawn to the same chapel.

Louise Wilmot, deputy executive director of CRS, said that during her visit there, Mother Teresa wasn't shy about asking for funds for milk her missionaries distribute to needy children and the elderly in India and a dozen other countries. "Where's the money for the milk?" Wilmot recalled she asked. Mother Teresa added: "If I don't get it here, then I'm going to ask Hillary," meaning Hillary Rodham Clinton, at her next stop, the White House.

Mass for Mother Teresa

Cardinal William H. Keeler will celebrate a Mass in memory of Mother Teresa at 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 408 Cathedral St.

Pub Date: 9/06/97

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