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Visit of Mother Teresa of Calcutta Remembered at Holy Cross

September 1st, 2016 by 

As the world celebrates the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta on Sept. 4, the College of the Holy Cross remembers her presence on campus 40 years ago, when she was awarded an honorary degree at the 1976 commencement ceremony, in front of the first co-ed graduating class in the College’s history.

Mother Teresa can be seen below walking on Fitton Field during the commencement procession.

Mother Teresa, who was already internationally recognized for her work at the time, was nominated by then College Chaplain Rev. Robert E. Manning, S.J. for her steadfast commitment to the poor; she received the Nobel Peace Prize just three years later in 1979.

“She responded to the poverty and suffering of human beings that, in her time and in her particular circumstances, very few others were addressing,” says Rev. Paul Harman, S.J., director of special projects in mission, who was at the College at the time and had the privilege of meeting Mother Teresa.

“Twenty-eight years ago,” her honorary degree citation reads, “in response to God’s call, you walked out alone from the pleasant enclosure of the convent of Loretto into the scourged slums of Moti Jheel, and began to serve the poorest of the poor with a spirit so indomitable, a faith so intractable, a love so abounding that your joyous example has overcome not only Calcutta but the world.”

The citation concludes:

“In honoring you, we honor Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor, and therefore, the College of the Holy Cross is privileged to bestow upon you the degree, Doctor of Ministry.”

“My strongest impression was of a small, fragile-looking woman with bright eyes, an easy smile, and someone who meant what she said,” remembers Fr. Harman. He, along with Fr. Manning even picked up Mother Teresa from Logan Airport, the day before the commencement ceremony, which he remembers ended in a downpour.

In her letter to the late Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., president of the College from 1970-1994, following the ceremony, Mother Teresa wrote:

“They say where nothingness and greatness come together both complete each other and make something beautiful for God. This is exactly what I feel about you and me—as it is all for Jesus. I have nothing more to say—but that all be for the greater glory of God and his poor.

“I am grateful to you for all you gave to me for our poor. ‘You gave to me’ Jesus will say to you.”

“Forty years ago, the College lifted before its students Mother Teresa, for her profound witness to the Gospel by her extraordinary response to the cries of the poor of her day,” says Rev. William Campbell, S.J. ’87, vice president for mission at the College. “Now, Saint Teresa of Calcutta is being lifted up by the Church for all. May this remarkable woman continue to inspire within our students their desires to hear and respond to the cry of the poor of this day.”

Other honorary degree recipients of 1976 included: Walter Jackson Ong, Doctor of Letters; Wendell Arthur Garrity, Jr. ’41, Doctor of Laws; Mildred Fay Jefferson, Doctorate of Humanities; and Edward Arthur O’Rorke ’29, Doctor of Humanities.

Images and documents pictured above from Holy Cross Archives and Special Collections.

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