Mother Teresa and Me

Ten Years of Friendship

By Donna-Marie

Cooper O’Boyle

Circle Press, 2009

192 pages, $14.95

To order: (888) 881-0729

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle was raising a family 20 years ago when she unexpectedly met Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Over the next 10 years, not only did the correspondence she began with the saintly nun grow into friendship, but Cooper O’Boyle’s life was changed by her exposure to the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity. She became a writer, speaker, blogger and a lay Missionary of Charity.

Although to claim friendship with Mother Teresa could be seen as boasting, Cooper O’Boyle manages to relate her story in a spirit of humility, keeping the focus on Mother Teresa’s words and wisdom.

In fact, she writes, she initially kept her correspondence with Mother Teresa quiet for fear of succumbing to pride and because she thought people might not understand.

Cooper O’Boyle had her first personal encounter with Mother Teresa while in Washington. A priest suggested that her family visit the terminally ill residents of Gift of Peace House, part of a Missionaries of Charity convent, and while there, they were invited to Mass at the sisters’ chapel.

Cooper O’Boyle was pleased to discover that Mother Teresa was present at the Mass she attended. Not only that, she hugged her 6-year-old daughter and approached her 2-year-old daughter, asking, “Is this the baby who was singing at Mass?”

Cooper O’Boyle decided to send Mother a thank-you note and was amazed to receive a reply a few weeks later. “More than her words, it was the realization that Mother Teresa had taken the time to respond to a suburban mom in America that moved me so deeply,” Cooper O’Boyle recalls in her book. The letter would be the first of 22 over the next decade. Some are reprinted in the book.

Mother Teresa’s letters always seemed to contain just what Cooper O’Boyle needed to hear. On one occasion, when the author was in desperate need of prayer and guidance for a problem she does not disclose, she was able to speak with Mother by phone.

Hearing and receiving counsel regularly from a woman who would be beatified after her death saw Cooper O’Boyle through many difficulties, including two high-risk pregnancies. During one, she was required to rest, which gave her time to begin writing about motherhood. She later shared her manuscripts with Mother Teresa, who read them and urged her to continue writing.

If there is a flaw in the book, it is that we only know Mother Teresa’s side of the friendship from her letters, which often sound as if they could have been written to almost anyone.

But overall, Mother Teresa and Me tells the story of this relationship very nicely, weaving in details from her life and lessons she learned from Mother Teresa. The photos showing Mother with the author’s children complement the text beautifully.

Judy Roberts writes

from Graytown, Ohio.