Cardinal remembers Mother Teresa Gift of Hope Convent is her living legacy in Baltimore, Keeler notes

Mother Teresa, 1910-1997

September 06, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Cardinal William H. Keeler remembered Mother Teresa yesterday not just as the living saint that much of the world perceived her to be, but as someone of indefatigable energy, with a great sense of humor.

"Mother Teresa's passing, her being called home to the Lord, is sad news, but it is also news which gives us another occasion to thank God for [her] gifts," Keeler said, standing on the steps of the Basilica of the Assumption shortly after hearing of her death.

"It's sad news because we will miss Mother Teresa," he said. "Many of us who saw her here in Baltimore on two visits -- one just last year -- recall the depth of her spirit, her personality, her sense of being in touch with God. But it's also an occasion for us to say, 'O Lord, we give you thanks for having permitted a person who came out of a very humble background in Albania to bring to the whole world the service to the poorest of the poor in the name of Jesus.' "

Keeler even recalled that during a 1994 meeting in Rome, he had occasion to tell Mother Teresa to pipe down.

"She was assigned to the same English-speaking discussion group as myself," Keeler said. "I was elected the chairman of the group, so I had occasion to recognize her for speaking -- a couple of times to say she was out of order, she had to wait her turn.

"And she responded with wonderful good humor," he said.

Many were touched

Keeler was one of many Baltimoreans who were touched by Mother Teresa, particularly during her two visits to this city -- last year and in 1992, when she and her Missionaries of Charity

opened the Gift of Hope Convent in East Baltimore.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said he and his wife, Frances Anne, were "deeply saddened" by Mother Teresa's death. "She inspired us with her kindness, her selflessness and her boundless love for those less fortunate," he said. "Mother Teresa touched a special place in all of our hearts with her gentle spirit, her dedication to serving others in need and her commitment to world peace. We will truly miss her."

Mother Teresa's appeal crossed denominational lines in the Baltimore area as Muslims and Jews, as well as Christians, mourned her death.

"I am sorry to hear about her death," said E. Abdul-malik Mohammed, Imam of Baltimore's Muslim American Society. "She was a great example for all people of faith."

"We're sorry to see the loss of this great public figure," said

Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. "She did a lot for humanity, and she will be deeply missed."

bTC Keeler said Mother Teresa's failing health forced her to slow down in recent years, but never stopped her from working. "She never paid any attention to her own health," Keeler said. "When she was here last year, she was recovering from an injury to her arm. And she said she could still sign things, so she was doing all right."

Keeler recalled that Mother Teresa was ailing when they were discussing in the early '90s whether to open the home in East Baltimore for dying AIDS patients.

Working while hospitalized

"She made her decision to come here to Baltimore to establish the Gift of Hope when she was in a coronary care unit of a hospital in California," he said. "Messengers were going in to see her, coming out and then telephoning me about the various stages she was taking in the decision process. So she tried to keep doing her work no matter what her health situation was."

Keeler said that places such as the Gift of Hope Convent on North Collington Street will be Mother Teresa's living legacy.

"The Missionaries of Charity, which she founded, continue extraordinary work of care for men dying with AIDS at their Gift of Hope residence," he said. "Thanks be to God for Mother Teresa, for her example and for her work that continues to go on because of what she started."

Pub Date: 9/06/97

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