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Memories of a Living Saint

Memories of a Living Saint

By William Rewak, S.J.

Close-up of Mother Theresa’s hands. Photo by Michael Collopy
Former SCU president William Rewak, S.J., remembers meeting Mother Teresa in 1986. On September 4, she will formally be canonized a saint by the Catholic Church.

Mother Teresa. In her lifetime many called her a living saint. On September 4, she will formally be canonized a saint by the Catholic Church. Born in Albania in 1910, she achieved renown for her work with the most destitute in the slums of Kolkata, India, where she began work in 1946. Former SCU president and chancellor, William Rewak, S.J., presented her the St. Clare Medal in 1986.

Fr. Rewak recalls:
Mother Teresa had come to San Jose for a major address in the Convention Center. Part of the visit, and ceremony, was Santa Clara University’s presentation of the St. Clare Medal to her. So after her talk, with the three of us at the microphone, Justice Ed Panelli ’53, J.D. ’55 and I took turns reading a script that detailed our rationale for awarding her the medal. After that formal ceremony, all of us, city officials and conveners, moved higgledy-piggledy off the stage to the wings.

Fr. Rewak with Mother Theresa. Photo courtesy SCU Archives

She sat down on a chair, looking tired. She had just completed a long, fervent speech before our own presentation. I walked over to her, leaned over, and told her how pleased I was that we were able to confer on her this honor, that I hoped it was an honor for her, but that it was certainly an honor for Santa Clara.

She asked me how many students we have. I told her and then asked if she had any message for the students. I remember this well: She said, “Tell them to keep God in their hearts.” No doubt, she had a charismatic personality; you could not help but look at her and notice, quite clearly, an extraordinary grace of humility. And when she looked at you, she looked inside you.

She had a nun companion who then helped her up and walked with her out to the car that was waiting to take her to the airport. She walked through the darkened backstage, carrying her cloth satchel, and then outside, silhouetted in the light of the doorway. A good memory of a future saint.

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