Author Susan Conroy Shares Lessons Learned from Mother Teresa with Students

February 18, 2010

conroy“What Mother Teresa was doing was not extraordinary,” Susan Conroy told students and faculty at Christendom College during an address given on February 8. “They were basic, simple, ordinary things. It was the love, humility, and spirit with which she served the dying that was extraordinary.”

Author of the bestseller, Mother Teresa's Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanctity, Conroy recounted what she had learned from Mother Teresa through her experiences in Calcutta at the orphanage and the home for the dying.

Conroy traveled alone to Calcutta to work with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity in 1986 at the age of 21 and later in 1991. She and Mother Teresa kept in touch until Mother Teresa's death in 1997.

Conroy said that her journey to Calcutta started with a letter she received in college from her mother which included a picture of Mother Teresa. On the picture was a quote from Mother Teresa which inspired Conroy: “Joy is strength. Joy is prayer. Joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”

“I remember as a college girl looking down at my hands and saying, 'I have two strong hands, maybe I can change the diapers of the babies at the orphanage' and 'I have my health and strength maybe I can feed some of the men and women in the home for the dying,'” Conroy recounted.

Susan with Mother Teresa in 1981.

Upon her arrival at Calcutta, Conroy said that she was struck by the profound humility of Mother Teresa. “I felt like telling her 'don't you realize how important you are?' I've now come to see that humility is a sign of greatness,” she said.

Mother Teresa taught Conroy the importance of joy in a person's vocation and daily life. “Mother Teresa made it sound so easy. You had to come with joy. You had to come with a smile, a sense of humor, and cheerfulness. You couldn't come in a grumpy mood. She would send you home.”

Another powerful lessons Conroy learned was “one, one, one.” Mother Teresa showed her that it all began with one person at a time. “Put all your love, attention, care, respect, and reverence into one human being at a time. Mother Teresa said, 'If I hadn't picked up that person off the streets of Calcutta, I wouldn't have picked up the 42,000 others.' Never think it's too small,” Conroy said.

Illustrating this point, Conroy related a story of her first day in the orphanage, when she picked up a crying girl and calmed her. Soon a little boy began to cry and as she went to put the little girl down to attend to the boy, the little girl's hands tightened around her neck.

Seniors Maureen Dalley and Lauren Merz discuss Conroy's inspiring story further following the talk.

“It was as if she was afraid that if I put her back down on the floor, it might be a while before anyone came and held her again. My most important job was love, love, love – to touch them and cuddle them and hug them. These children had enough food at the orphanage, but they were starved for the human touch,” she said.

Conroy told her audience that Mother Teresa had radically changed her life and invited them to be changed as well.

Closing, Conroy compared the feats of Olympic athletes to those of the soul in the spiritual life. “They have such determination and desire for the final goal. Let's not limp towards the goal, lets run towards the goal.”


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