It’s not every day you meet a saint…

By Peggy Weber

Right after work, today, I am rushing to the U.S. Post Office. I am going to stock up on Mother Teresa stamps.

Send your mail with this smiling face. (Photo courtesy of Catholic News Service)

The new 44 cent stamp with her image was released yesterday at a ceremony Sunday at Washington’s National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

My daughter, Elizabeth, attended the Mass and dedication and I watched a lot of it on television.

A view from the pew at the Stamp Mass (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Weber)

Mother Teresa is well known to the world. She won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the “poorest of the poor” in India and other areas. She was declared an honorary U.S. citizen by a joint resolution of Congress in 1996.

I was lucky enought to meet Mother Teresa on June 13, 1981 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was being given the “Pere Marquette Discovery Award” by Marquette University and I was reporting on the event for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald, the Catholic newspaper for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

At the press conference with Mother Teresa

I must admit that I was nervous that day. I was a fairly new and young reporter. I had a list of about a dozen questions that I might ask at the press conference.

The television reporters and those from the major media jumped right in to the questioning. I heard them ask the questions I had written on my piece of paper. I wondered what I could now ask her.

Up close with Mother Teresa (Photo by Peggy Weber, 1981)

The press conference was winding down but I did not want to miss a chance to speak with Mother Teresa. I raised my hand timidly and was recognized.

“Mother Teresa, you are 70 and at an age when many others have retired. Do you have any plans to retire or step down from your role as the leader of your religious community?”

Yes, I just asked a future saint if she was thinking about retiring!!!

Mother Teresa at the Marquette Mass.

Mother Teresa gave me a sweet smile and said  that no, she had no plans to retire. In fact, she did not formally retire until March, 1997 — just a few months before her death that same year on Sept. 5. (She offered to retire in 1991 but the Missionary Sisters of Charity refused to accept it.)

Snapping a photo as I watch her sign a book at Marqutte

Even back in 1981, I knew that the day I met Mother Teresa was going to be one that I would not forget. I felt that she embraced me, even after I asked such a lame question. She had something so special that you felt different around her. I could desrcibe her as  holy, charismatic, confident, loving. All fit her aptly.

But most importantly, my encounter with her made me want to be a better person. She inspired me then — and  knowing how she struggled with her own “dark night of the soul”” — I am even more inspired now.

And she definitely makes me run out to the post office to stock up on her stamp.

Thank you Mother Teresa.

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