St. Paul Seminary rector emeritus had friendship with Kolkata saint

| Christina Capecchi | July 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

It was 1986, and Mother Teresa’s order was growing. It was time to make a business trip to the Vatican to refresh its constitutions.

“Here comes this tiny nun in blue and white,” recalls Msgr. Callaghan, who worked as an official in the Vatican Congregation for Religious at the time. “She was as big as a munchkin, God’s little bundle of love and joy.”

He spent the day with her visiting the sick. “That day,” he later recalled, “I began a marvelous adventure of learning real service to the poorest of the poor with Mother as the guide.”

She must have sensed in the young American a genuine, grounded priest — an ally in her service to the Church — and once her business in Rome was done, she gave him a copy of the constitutions, striking up a correspondence and a friendship that would span the rest of her life. It would bring him to Kolkata to witness her ministry first hand, a trip that took his breath away and stretched his heart.

Over the years he celebrated Mass for her whenever possible and introduced her to his own mother. He still chuckles over his mother’s well-intentioned suggestion that the nun with the creased face try Oil of Olay.

Mother Teresa was faithful in her correspondence to Msgr. Callaghan, sending birthday greetings, Mass cards and prayer booklets, signing each with her familiar handwriting: an upward slanting printed “T” trailed by rounded, cursive vowels. Her letters express a close friendship and a yearning to be united in the Eucharist.

“I need your prayers,” she once wrote, “especially when you put the drop of water in your chalice. Let me be that drop.”

When Msgr. Callaghan’s mother died in 1995, she graciously offered to adopt him. “I am most unworthy to take your mother’s place,” she wrote, “but I am very grateful to God for giving me this great grace to take her place on earth and to have a priest as my son is a gift of God as my son. Often I think and pray for you.”

Indeed, Mother and Monsignor shared the same wiring: a deep, mature prayer life and a pure, youthful joy in service. “Unless you become as a little child,” he reflected, “you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven: That was the secret and beauty of Mother’s love.”

She often invoked the Blessed Mother, who is near and dear to Msgr. Callaghan. “Let us ask Our Lady to help us be pure and humble like her so that we can become holy like Jesus,” Mother Teresa wrote him in 1993.

The words are ingrained in Msgr. Callaghan, ever pointed toward this mission as he forms tomorrow’s priests.


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