This week the world watched and listened as Mother Teresa of Calcutta was entered into the realm of sainthood. As a neighbor said, she was not a Catholic, she was not a Christian, she was a humanitarian. The photo of her was taken many years ago when Mother Teresa was in Chicago accepting rice from a charity organization.
The man on Mother T’s left is a local, now deceased, Ed Spellman. His wife is Patty Callahan, now living in Oak Park. The Spellmans have long treasured this picture, especially since, barely visible at the bottom, are words written by the saint herself.
With some squinting and twisting and turning, Roger Grant and Elir Rrahmeni made out “Love one another as I have loved you, said Jesus. God bless you. Gonhite.” Since she wrote in ink, it has faded. But steps are being taken to preserve and perhaps brighten up those words. The woman at Gilmore Framing on Chicago Avenue in Oak Park told me ink fades; if you want to preserve writing, write in pencil.
Mother Teresa did not make speeches; she didn’t have to. This tiny Albanian woman who was photographed with the rich and famous sought only to minister to the poor and sick. She was photographed with Princess Di, Hillary Clinton, President Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Queen Elizabeth, the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Edward Kennedy, Yasser Arafat, rocker Bob Geldof, and many others.
This remarkable woman was born in Skopje which is now the capital of Macedonia. At that time, Skopje was Albanian. Her native tongue was Albanian, which is spoken today in Forest Park by such newcomers as the Rrahmeni family. Her name at baptism was Agnes which she never used. She went by Gonxtha (gon kha) which means “flower bud” in Albanian.
She sang in the church choir, played the mandolin and wrote articles for her local paper. At age 18 in 1928, she decided to become a missionary nun and joined an Irish order. She later joined the “Missionaries of Charity” and wore the famous blue and white “sari” with which she became so well known. Mother Teresa died on Sept. 13, 1997 and was buried at the Motherhouse in Calcutta. Rituals there were led by Henri D’Souza (any relation to our Forest Park D’Souzas?) After she retired as head of her order, a pastry chef in a Nashville coffee shop discovered a pastry roll bearing the likeness of Mother T. The “nun bun” became quite a sensation in the area. Mother T. gave permission for T-shirts to be made locally, but she didn’t want the publicity to go international.
We also remember this week longtime Forest Parker Dolores Holub, who died in Atlanta at the age of 99. Our sincere condolences to her family. More details can be found in Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune.
Birthday greetings this week to John Michael Deering, Antonin Dvorak (on the 8th), Aaron Bakartis, Todd Marler, Clayton Davis, Kirk Scully, Hannah Scollard, John Erickson, Rick Stephanie, Lily O’Neil, Diane Huebner, Betty Huebner, Marion Flight, Nicole Walsh, Max Rus, Celeste Cosgrove, Claire Finnegan, Brian Foley, Adam Goetz, Alyssa Neff, and Matt Massoth.
Happy anniversary to Guy and Katie Macino, Lisa and P.J. Walsh, and Carol and Dave Novak.
Jackie is a former Chicago and Elmwood Park schoolteacher with an undying love for music, friendly pets and a host of life’s other treasures too numerous to list. She was born on the far southwest side of Chicago in a great neighborhood when it was a great time to be young.