Editor's Note: This story has been updated since it was first posted.
MONROE, N.Y. — The Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, based in Monroe, N.Y., make it their mission to spread the Gospel door-to-door.
Founded by Mother Mary Teresa Tallon in August 1920, the order now has convents in the Bronx, Arizona, Nigeria and the Philippines.
Mother Mary Teresa’s sainthood cause was advanced at the bishops’ fall meeting on Nov. 11. The bishops applauded moving the cause forward. In April, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, outgoing president of the bishops’ conference, signed the edict for her sainthood cause; she is currently a “Servant of God.”
Waldery Hilgeman, who is with Missio Pastoralis in Rome, is a postulator for Mother Mary Teresa's cause. Of the vote, he said, "I am glad that the American bishops gave their favorable vote for the beatification cause of Mother Tallon during the general assembly last week. The Holy See requires the obtaining of such an approval in order to verify that a particular beatification cause would be significant not only for the metropolitan Archdiocese of New York, but also for the local Church in the United States. Their unanimous vote shows that the bishops believe that Mother Tallon's life could impact Catholics and others throughout the country."
Mother Mary Teresa Tallon was born in 1867 in upstate New York to Irish-immigrant parents.
At 19, she joined the Holy Cross Sisters in South Bend, Ind. She taught in Catholic schools for 33 years.
Mother Mary Teresa received her inspiration to start the order during Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City in January 1908.
She wrote, "God revealed to me clearly at holy Mass what it was he wanted. I must establish an institute where women would be trained to greater spiritual perfection and, being formed in the contemplative spirit, go out in search of the lost lambs and bring them back to the fold by means of Christian instruction. I saw God's will clearly and received strong assurances of his powerful protection."
On the Solemnity of the Assumption in 1920, when she arrived in New York City, she founded the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, after receiving episcopal permission to leave the Holy Cross Sisters.
In March 1954, Mother Mary Teresa died, thanking God for the original grace of her vocation and sustaining her order since its founding.
Year of Faith Blessings
Rev. Mother Carole Marie Troskowski, like Mother Mary Teresa, is from upstate New York, growing up in Albany and spending summers in the Adirondacks. Mother Carole’s maternal grandmother’s background was French/Algonquin, so she sees herself as a descendant of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, canonized in 2012. In 1961, she entered the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate.
Currently, Mother Carole is putting together Mother Mary Teresa’s writings, since she was a voluminous writer.
“It’s the perfect time, the Year of Faith,” she said, for focusing on Mother Mary Teresa’s legacy and mission.
“Our charism is reaching out to people in faith. It is missionary, imitating the Good Shepherd and going door-to-door. We are trying to find Catholics who are away from the faith and build up Catholic family life. We do Catholic instruction for public-school students, catechesis and youth ministry.”
Through their evangelization, the order has promoted the Year of Faith, which ends Nov. 24, Christ the King Sunday.
“For the Year of Faith, we read the Holy Father’s proclamations, and we do seminars for the laity, training them for door-to-door evangelization,” Mother Carole said. “Our whole apostolate is to share faith with others.”
Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has a community of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate in his diocese.
“We are very blessed to have the Parish Visitors in our diocese,” Bishop Olmsted said during the Nov. 11 discussion at the USCCB fall meeting that preceded the bishops’ decision to advance Mother Tallon’s cause. “They serve at the Newman Center. They serve in education in parishes, both youth formation and faith formation; and, especially, they visit families, and they teach people how to do practical evangelization in parishes.”
Added Bishop Olmsted, “So I think connecting this cause with evangelization is very appropriate, because of the way the charism is being lived by the sisters of that community today.”
Hilgeman concluded, "It has been quite an experience. Mother Tallon, to my surprise, was such a prolific and original writer. My team and I are just astounded at her intellectual brilliance, despite the limits in her formal education. She left thousands upon thousands of pages of writings that have been lovingly preserved by her spiritual daughters. Her wisdom continues to inspire not only the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, but those who have encountered her works.
"She was and is, in my opinion, a clear manifestation of the 'genius of woman' which Blessed John Paul II repeatedly talked about in Mulieris Dignitatem. She was quite ahead of her time in foreseeing the need to bring evangelization once again to fallen-away and non-practicing Catholics. In founding the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, she was clearly a forerunner of the present-day Church's summons towards a New Evangelization. ... She belongs to that company of founders and foundresses who have valiantly, charitably and generously borne the 'weight of the cross' for the sake of the realization of the Kingdom of God here on earth. ... I pray that her example of courage and fidelity would be a shining beacon for all women religious, not only in the United States, but also throughout the world."
Sister Maria Catherine, vice postulator for the cause of Mother Mary Teresa, added, "It is a great gift to the Church at this time of the New Evangelization. The bishops have acknowledged the charism as a gift given by the Holy Spirit through Mother Foundress to the Church. She is a woman for our times!"
She continued, "It has been a privilege to be working on Mother's cause. I have the opportunity to read and touch her original letters and conferences: what I call her 'relics'! I am getting to know her better as I read her explanations of the charism and the living out of it; seeing, firsthand, as it were, all she suffered in responding to God's call; how she relied on divine Providence and her heroic fortitude, charity and patience in all events."
Mother Mary Teresa made a recording in 1945 at the RCA studios in Manhattan to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the PVMIs. She printed 13 books of conferences, and, in 1925, she started the quarterly magazine the Parish Visitor.
Sister Maria Catherine said that Mother Mary Teresa prayed for and was overjoyed when Pope St. Pius X lowered the age of first Communion and fostered daily Communion. She added that Mother Mary Teresa taught the unity of the family "based on person-to-person, face-to-face encounters."
As a Parish Visitor, she commented, "Sainthood would mean that the desires of every sister's heart are possible and attainable by living faithfully the inspiration given by the Holy Spirit to Mother Mary Teresa Tallon. We have been working for many years to begin Mother's cause. To have gotten this far in so short a time is a wonderful gift to each Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate! Cardinal Dolan has been 100% behind us in this journey, and the support of the bishops of the United States is a wonderful testimony to Mother's own spirit of love for the Church and her leaders."
Sister Maria Catherine noted several incidents in Mother Tallon's life, from teaching the Catechism to migrant workers and their children on her family farm to consecrating her chastity to God at the age of 12 though she had no direct contact with religious sisters.
Despite her family's objection to her vocation, she worked at a dressmaker's shop in Utica, N.Y., to raise the money for her dowry. On Aug. 15, 1920, when she joined the pioneer sisters in the New York City convent, she talked, prayed and gave a tour of the house, despite suffering from a fever.
Mother Mary Teresa would tell her sisters, "Remember, you are the brides of a crucified Spouse."
Sister Maria Catherine commented, "Mother saw Jesus as her 'redeemer and lover.' His Sacred Heart, consumed with love for each person, was her refuge and inspiration: to love each person as he did."
Mother Mary Teresa, in one of her conferences, said, "Jesus came and never went away. His love chained him in our midst, and he made himself a tabernacle, somewhat like the tabernacle St. Peter asked for. ... Our Lord could've given him (St. Peter) the tabernacles. He proved that he could and that he loved us, by giving us a tabernacle and staying with us in the midst of the parishes, that the Visitors may draw their strength as from a fountain, rising up in the heart of the Blessed Sacrament. Each morning at holy Communion, they renew their strength especially in Our Lord's heart. They offer up everything to him, and they take him out with them, like the spouse in the canticle."
Mother Tallon's religious congregation published this prayer of intercession for their foundress, as her cause proceeds:
O divine Lord, whose merciful love reaches to the ends of the earth, we thank you for inspiring the heart of Julia Teresa Tallon with the love of your own Heart.
Through her, you brought forth a new institute in the Church and called us to imitate the sacrificial mission of your Son, the Good Shepherd, who, in steadfast union of heart with you and loving zeal for the most neglected of his little ones, gave his life to seek and save the lost and straying.
We humbly ask you to continue to expand the work you have begun in her. Fulfill her ardent longing to promote sanctity in each heart, to restore family life, calling all to full participation in the life of the Church and arousing the conscience of your people in loving concern for the most neglected and spiritually abandoned in our midst.
May she who asked always — “What more can I do for God?” — find now new ways to glorify you. Grant, Lord, that she who loved and cared for the least of your little ones on earth, may now be glorified by you, who live and reign with Jesus Christ, your Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end.
Register correspondent Anna Abbott writes from Napa, California.