Rochester Catholics touched by potential saint - Catholic Courier

Rochester Catholics touched by potential saint

Father Anthony Mugavero became a part of history because someone was
late picking him up.

Father Mugavero, pastor of Rochester’s St. Bridget’s Parish, was
living and working with the Missionaries of Charity’s brothers in
Calcutta, India, while on sabbatical in 1990. One day in September, he
was waiting for a ride to a leprosarium when the Missionaries of
Charity’s sisters called: They needed a priest to come to their
headquarters to celebrate a Mass for Mother Teresa, who had been
re-elected as the order’s superior. Father Mugavero changed his plans
and became the sole celebrant of the Mass.

“They had sisters literally from all over the world,” Father
Mugavero recalled of worshippers at the Mass, as he displayed pictures
showing showed hundreds of nuns garbed in the Missionaries of Charity’s
famed blue-and-white saris. Even though Father Mugavero had to
improvise a homily on the spot, he said he has nothing but fond
memories of the Mass, particularly of the sisters singing the

“For whatever reason, it was as if the Gloria was being sung in
heaven and transported to the earth,” he said.

Mother Teresa was a little late arriving at Mass and apologized to
Father Mugavero.

“She talked to me as if I was a long-lost friend,” Father Mugavero
said, recalling her saying: “I’m so sorry I wasn’t here. I’m sorry.”

Father Mugavero, however, was anything but sorry to meet her, noting
she had given him two Miraculous Medals when he met her in New York
City two years earlier. On both occasions, the priest was struck by how
personable she was despite her enormous fame.

“When you meet her, you just sort of sense she is focused totally on
you,” Father Mugavero said. “Whoever’s in front of her gets her total

A happy twist of fate also marked the meeting between Mother Teresa
and Father Alexander Bradshaw, pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Parish
in Greece, who was a deacon-seminarian in Rome in 1984. During the
Youth Jubilee in Rome that year, Father Bradshaw said he handled some
of the scheduling for English-speaking participants, and had arranged
to have Mother Teresa speak at a church. However, five days before the
event, he found out that the church’s prior had forgotten to tell him a
wedding had been scheduled at the same time Mother Teresa was slated to

“So, in my predicament I called Mother Teresa over the telephone to
discuss with her how this awkward situation should be handled,” Father
Bradshaw said. “She had just arrived in Rome from India. ‘Come and have
afternoon tea with me and we will find a solution!’ she said. ‘I plan
to speak on the subject of love,’ she said, ‘what better context for
such a talk than a wedding. See if you can persuade the young couple to
agree to their wedding being celebrated in the midst of a gathering of
3,000 young people, and I will incorporate their wedding into my

Fortunately, the couple agreed, Father Bradshaw said, and the
wedding proceeded with an enthusiastic congregation of attentive young
people from around the world. “Everyone present, except for those who
knew, were convinced that this had all been planned from the outset,”
he added.

Laura Carmona worked with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta
for 40 days in 1984. While in India, Carmona, a registered nurse who
attends St. Mark’s Church in Greece, took care of babies and young
people with developmental disabilities, as well as the dying. She also
worked with Mother Teresa’s order in New York City and Washington,
D.C., during the mid-1980s, volunteering in homes for the dying and for
people with AIDS. She also worked in soup kitchens and shelters.

Carmona, along with her son and two other relatives, left for Rome
Oct. 15 to attend Vatican ceremonies celebrating Pope John Paul II’s
25th anniversary and Mother Teresa’s Oct. 19 beatification. She said
she had planned to go to Rome with her husband, Alvaro, but he passed
away suddenly April 30. He is with her in spirit, she said, adding that
he, too, met Mother Teresa on a number of occasions, and was inspired
by her example to work with the sick. Over the years the couple
volunteered at homes for the dying throughout Rochester, she said,
noting that she currently volunteers at the ecumenical Sunset Home for
the dying.

Carmona said she was struck by the Mother Teresa’s humility and
common-sense approach to ministry.

“She taught me … to do small things with great love,” Carmona
said, citing standing patiently in line at a store or smiling while
passing dishes of food at a supper as examples. “All of these things
are little, tiny things, but in total, they could bring about world
peace if everybody did them,” she said.

Father Kevin E. McKenna, pastor of St. Cecilia’s Parish,
Irondequoit, met Mother Teresa while doing graduate studies in Rome in
the early 1980s. The priest noted he regularly celebrated Mass at a
Missionaries of Charity convent near the Coliseum. After a Mass
celebrating the profession of vows by several members of her order,
Mother Teresa met Father McKenna and thanked him for concelebrating the
liturgy with other priests.

“Although small in stature, she had a tremendously wide smile,” he
said. “As I shook her hand, I could only reflect on how much service
those hands had given — how many lepers she had touched, how many
people dying she had comforted.”

Those hands belonged to a woman who wasn’t interested in people as
a faceless mass of humanity but people as individual souls, Carmona

“She touched millions — by touching one at a time,” she said.

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