Priest Credits Vocation
to Mother Teresa
By Maria Faulconer
describes the powerful impact Mother Teresa had on those who met
her: "It's like meeting Christ. You want to fall to your knees and
adore her." He should know: Mother Teresa changed his life.
ago, as a young man living in London, Patrick saw Mother Teresa
on television. He was so moved by her simple message of compassion
and hope for the downtrodden that he gave up his comfortable life-style
to follow her.
was born in Northern Ireland. He had graduated from the College
of Business Studies at Queen's University in Belfast and was enjoying
the life of a single professional when he first saw Mother Teresa.
"Instead of talking about helping people," he says, "she did something."
Wearing his pinstriped
suit and tie, Patrick ventured into the inner city of London to
visit one of Mother Teresa's group homes for the "down-and-outs."
His friends thought he was crazy.
Patrick made it as
far as the street where the home was located. Overwhelmed by people
who are often perceived as bums and derelicts, he recalls going
back home, where he had a "hot bath and a couple of gins."
Treating Everyone the Same
The desire to help grew stronger. Two months later Patrick returned
to the same street. He knocked on the door of one of the group homes,
clutching all his worldly possessions in two plastic bagshe
had given away everything else that he had. This time he stayed.
"Don't think of me as St. Francis," he states emphatically. "It
was something I had to do!"
Three weeks later, he regretted having given away his brand-new
For two and a half years, he worked as a volunteer with men who
were in the advanced stages of alcoholism. He washed them and says
he helped them "sift through the bureaucracy and make sense of their
During that time, Mother Teresa came to visit three or four times.
What impressed Patrick most was the way she treated people: "She
was the same with the drunk on the side of the road or with the
cardinal. She had a way of looking at you with such intensity that
you felt you were the only person in the room."
But Mother Teresa set stringent guidelines for her programs. The
men could stay only until they got back on their feet, then they
had to leave. One day, Patrick and some colleagues approached Mother
Teresa about providing counseling for the men. She was adamant:
"If you want to counsel, there are other programs you can choose."
Patrick says he decided go to Calcutta "to see where Mother Teresa's
work began." Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. "People
have this romanticized view of Mother Teresa and her work in Calcutta."
But, he explains, "Calcutta is a hellhole. Children are born, live
and die on the streets. During the monsoon, raw sewage flows through
the streets up to your knees."
Patrick describes living in a house with the Brothers of Charity:
"We slept on the floor surrounded by cockroaches. The toilet was
a hole in the ground. Showers were nonexistent. We washed from a
single faucet and were drenched immediately from the heat and the
humidity. The stench from the sewage was ever present."
Patrick spent a year in Calcutta. For a time, he worked with people
who had Hansen's disease. He says, "Patients lined up by the thousands.
We'd dole out bowls of rice while nurses pricked each person with
needles. We did it day in and day out."
In the midst of the stench and the degradation, Patrick witnessed
cases of quiet dignity. For several days, he noticed one woman who
quietly took her bowl of rice and disappeared around the corner.
One day, he followed her. She walked behind the railway shed to
a large concrete sewer pipe where many families lived. There Patrick
saw a mother and two children who were dying. The woman he followed
was sharing her meager meal with them.
He also worked at Kalighat, a hospice for the untouchablesthe
poorest of the poor. Although both men and women were housed there,
Mother Teresa made it very clear that the sexes must be segregated.
The sisters worked only with female patients, the brothers with
the men. There Patrick ministered to the dying men and their physical
needs. Although he couldn't speak their language, he communicated
through his eyes and hands. "All their lives, these men were outcasts,
shunned by their own people. To be touched by white Europeans was
unheard-of. They had a sense of awesome thanks and gratitude."
Pinstripes to Priesthood
It was during one of his last visits with Mother Teresa that his
life would be forever changed. She asked if he had thought about
becoming a priest.
"Since Mother Teresa thought I could," Father Patrick recalled,
"I decided to think about it." Twelve years later, he was ordained
a diocesan priest in London.
When he was in Calcutta at the ordination of a priest, Father Patrick
said of Mother Teresa, "She is living in Christ's consciousness.
She has long ago died to the ego and lives solely for her people."
As dignitaries were being seated in the cathedral, Mother Teresa
appeared with people from the streets who were blind, disabled and
ill. She ushered them to the best seats in the front. Patrick found
himself seated next to a man in the advanced stages of Hansen's
"This gesture shouldn't have been surprising," the priest notes.
"After all, these people were her friends. Her life was spent in
service to them. When she looked at them, she saw Christ in each
of their faces." He has no doubt that Mother Teresa will be canonized.
Although Father Patrick's journey has taken him far from Mother Teresa's community in Calcutta, he has devoted his priestly ministry to living out her ideals. Following his ordination, he was pastor at an inner-city parish in London's East End for six years. During that time, he celebrated the Eucharist with the Missionaries of Charity there.
Then he ministered for five years in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, serving at St. Joseph-Southgate in Colorado Springs and conducting retreats.
Father Patrick has recently come full circle, returning to London for a year-long sabbatical. He dreams of returning to Northern Ireland to bring the true gospel message of love and compassion to his people.
Maria Faulconer is a free-lance writer who loves to read and travel. Previous careers of this Colorado Springs resident include teaching high school English and counseling emotionally disturbed adolescents.