Mother Teresa changed journalist - Catholic Courier

Mother Teresa changed journalist

Linda Schaefer was photographing Mother Teresa when the famed humanitarian took a trip to the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1995.

As Mother Teresa stepped off the plane, she turned and began looking at Schaefer, who was accustomed to being invisible behind a camera lens.

“She walks through people and come right up to me, and grabs my hands, and held them for the longest time,” Schaefer said during a talk March 24 at the RIT Inn and Conference Center in Henrietta.

Schaefer said that when Mother Teresa laid her hands on a person, that person’s life often changed. Within weeks Schaefer had hopped on a plane to India to seek permission from Mother Teresa to photograph the work of her Calcutta-based order, the Missionaries of Charity.

Schaefer recounted her own spiritual journey during an appearance at the Rochester Chapter of Magnificat, a group that provides opportunities for spiritual growth and encouragement for women. During breakfasts three times a year, speakers tell of how Christ has transformed their lives. The event includes songs and prayer.

Rather than speaking solely about her time with Mother Teresa, which she chronicles in the book Come and See, Schaefer, whose sister, Karen, lives in Rochester, was asked to speak on her personal journey of faith. She grew up in a Presbyterian family that traveled the globe, but converted to Catholicism several years ago along with her son, Paul, as a result of her experience getting to know Mother Teresa.

Schaefer recalled her humble beginnings in photography, when a college photography professor told her she would never succeed in the field. Depressed, she began photographing ordinary and down-and-out people at the Star Bar in Ann Arbor, Mich. The series of photographs she took made her professor change his mind, and she continued to pursue a career in the profession.

“It’s in that moment of darkness that one sees the light in a different way,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer’s work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Catholic Digest, Time, Newsweek, Parade Magazine and the Los Angeles Times. She began working as a CNN photojournalist in 1985, then returned to still photography and photographed the Amazon, the presidential campaign of 1988, the fall of a Romanian dictator, and the struggle in Croatia and Bosnia.

“Everywhere I went, I found God in the most unlikely of places,” Schaefer said.

The presentation left Johanna Casciano of Henrietta’s Church of the Good Shepherd hungry to hear even more about Schaefer’s time in India with Mother Teresa. During her weeklong visit to Rochester, Schaefer also spoke to several other area groups.

“From the moment she started to talk, I realized we had a rare chance to talk to a photojournalist who was on a rare journey,” said Patricia Schmitt of Rochester’s St. John the Evangelist Church.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For details on Magnificat’s future events, call 585/436-1284 or e-mail

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