Congratulations on your book, An Unquenchable Thirst. It was riveting and soul stirring! I enjoyed reading every chapter and actually know many of the Sisters and priests in your story. I have been involved with the M.C. since I first went to India in 1981 at age 24. I too had a deep need to know the work of Mother Teresa, and set out on my own to see and experience her work. From that experience, I returned home with a desire to know more and became involved with the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa.
I first met Mother Teresa in 1986 at the USA National Co-Worker's Conference in St. Paul. MN. You may have known Vi Collins, who served as the National Link at that time. I also knew Ann Blaikie and many other Co-Worker's between 1984-1997, Mother invited me to become the USA National Link for the Co-Workers in 1990 and I served in that capacity until the demise of the Co-Workers in 1994. What a shocking turn of events that was for everyone involved.
I was in Latrobe in 2007 for the 10th Anniversary of Mother Teresa's death and enjoyed seeing Co-Workers and Sisters and priests I hadn't seen for a long time. I believe we met briefly that weekend. I made that pleasant connection after reading your Epilogue. I was standing outside the Church talking with one of the MC Brothers or Fathers who introduced us.
I so appreciate your struggle in the community, your knowing that you couldn't stay, your difficult decision to leave something that you truly loved in order to live fully and your continued struggle to learn to integrate your life experience with the M.C. into your life today. Life can be so complex and I see in your writing the emergence of your true self. That alone is what God is calling us to - our true and authentic self that frees us up to really love in this world. I am so grateful to know your story - and have drawn many parallels with my own story. In 1981 when I went to India for the first time I was desperately trying to get out of an abusive relationship with a priest. He was someone who was highly respected in my family and community and yet had a dark abusive nature that I fell into as an adolescent after having been groomed since childhood. Seeking out Mother Teresa was a search for something authentic that I could attach myself too. The proverbial, something bigger than yourself experience.
Although I thought for many years about joining her community, in the end I couldn’t walk away from the supportive network I had at home. And as I would discover, I had much healing to do after the abuse ended. So, rather than making a lifetime commitment to her by joining the community, I decided to find ways to integrate her spirituality. Getting involved with the Co-Workers was the best medicine I could have asked for; it took me out of the abusive relationship and showed me a world of loving people who today are still very close friends. They were some of the most open and generous people I have known.
I tell the full story in Broken Trust by Patrick and Sue Fleming (Crossroads, 2007) and also as co-author in Shattered Soul? Five Pathways to Healing the Spirit from Abuse and Trauma (Wordstream Publishing, 2011), also by Patrick Fleming with his wife Sue Fleming. Both books deal with the healing aspect of abuse. I’ve been back to India three times since 1981 and Kolkata still has a tender hold on my soul.
Blessings on your continued journey.
Victoria Schmidt currently serves as Executive Director of Theresians International, a Catholic women’s organization open to all Christian women (www.theresians.org) with members in ten countries.
She has been in ministry with Theresians since 1999 and lives in Springfield, IL. She has traveled extensively, has been involved in mission work for 35 years, loves gardening, reading, her family, friends and her Golden Retriever, Sufi. Some of her master teachers are Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, Joan Chittister, Jean Vanier, Paula D’Arcy, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.