« Reaching for Truth Beyond Religion | Main | What Mary's Memoir Taught Me »

Thoroughly Engrossing

Mary Johnson’s book An Unquenchable Thirst is a thoroughly engrossing account of the inner workings of the Missionaries of Charity under Mother Teresa’s leadership. Rarely does one get such an objective account written by a person immersed in an organization for twenty years. Mary gives a firsthand narrative of events that reveal both the great sacrifices made by these women who give up all to join as well as the unpleasant warping of doctrine and political maneuvering inherent in any large organization.

The book starts with Mary reading a Time Magazine article on Mother Teresa in the mid-seventies sparking a calling within her to join the Missionaries of Christ. Leaving her family in spite of their reservations, she heads off alone to New York to join. I’m sure most readers will be shocked to learn about the harsh and often inhumane conditions and treatment given to the aspirants, even as they rise through the ranks of sisterhood. I was amazed at the alarming number of personality disorders exhibited by sisters in high positions of authority. Often I wondered how anyone who studied the teachings of Jesus could in any way ascribe to their beliefs. Nonetheless, the sisters pledge absolute obedience to their superiors, so there was no mechanism to address the cruel treatment.

Mary’s experiences and growth within the organization cause her to question the tenets of the Missionaries of Charity such as suffering bringing you closer to Jesus and God. She longs for physical intimacy as even a hug to comfort is not allowed.

The times Mary spent directly interfacing and traveling with Mother Teresa reveal insights into Mother that will often be in stark contrast to commonly held beliefs about her. While often depicted as interested solely in the work of her calling, Mary discovers Mother Teresa to be deeply enmeshed politics of the Catholic Church and in obtaining sainthood.

The Missionaries of Charity definitely do great work around the world, yet it is clear that drastic changes need to be made in leadership and doctrine.

My desk is strewn with books that are half finished because I lost interest. An Unquenchable Thirst is the first book I have read in a long time that I could not wait to get back to.  This fascinating book will be one that you will be sure to recommend to others.

...From Richard Price, Austin, Texas.  Richard grew up in Beaumont, Texas and attended school with Mary from Jr. High thru High School Graduation. We usually were together in the advanced classes like science and math and Mary was always one of the students I tried to beat on tests since she was extremely smart (note, I seldom beat her). The other things I remember about Mary is her high moral character and kindness.