The time Mother Teresa visited Atlanta

Mother Teresa, who will officially become a saint in a Catholic Church ceremony Sunday (Sept. 4), visited Atlanta in 1995. She  attended mass at Sacred Heart Church downtown, now known as The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  The occasion was the dedication of the Gift of Grace House, an HIV/AIDS hospice for indigent women. At Sacred Heart, a mass is planned Sunday to mark the occasion of Mother Teresa's canonzation.

Here are some news stories from the AJC archives, published at the time of that visit.

'You truly see Christ in her eyes'
Mother Teresa: An 11-year-old and a home for women with AIDS are blessed.

By Gayle White
Originally published 6/14/1995

Eleven-year-old Louisa Wells spent several weekends sweeping, scraping and painting the wooden bungalow in Virginia-Highland where Mother Teresa's nuns operate a home for women with AIDS.

On Tuesday she was thanked with a blessing by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

"It's like a real honor just to at least see her. She was neat, " said Louisa, a sixth-grader at Taylor Road Middle School in north Fulton County.

Louisa's encounter with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun came after a private Mass and blessing of the home Tuesday with Atlanta Archbishop John F. Donoghue.

One of the Atlanta sisters told Mother Teresa that Louisa might someday become a Missionary of Charity, a member of Mother Teresa's order.

The tiny nun, shorter than Louisa, put both hands on Louisa's cheeks, looked her in the eye, and said, "I will pray for your discernment, " said Louisa's uncle, Micah Jennings.

When Mother Teresa left the house for the airport in midmorning, she pointed to Louisa, then pointed to her white habit, and they bowed to each other.

"Everybody was in tears, " said Jennings. "She's a saint. There's just no question. . . . You truly see Christ in her eyes."

Louisa said she will consider becoming one of Mother Teresa's nuns. "Some of the sisters want me to be one. Mother wants me to be one, too, " she said.

Louisa and her uncle, a faithful volunteer at the AIDS home, were among an overflow crowd of nuns and invited guests who attended the private Mass.

Mother Teresa sat on a quilt on the floor of the front room of the house, surrounded by nuns, said Gretchen Keiser, one of the guests and editor of the Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.

After Mass, Mother Teresa and the four nuns who operate the Atlanta home accompanied Donoghue on a tour of the hospice.

The archbishop blessed each room of the house, saying, "By the work that is done here, we pray that we will all be led closer to God and closer to a full understanding of his will for us."

Mother Teresa left Atlanta by private plane for Charlotte to participate in a prayer service at the Charlotte Coliseum.

Campbell's Diary: Can a saint stand life in a fishbowl?

By Colin Campbell, columnist
6/13/1995

The crowd began to gather early in the morning. By lunchtime there were elderly women in shapeless dresses and whites and Latinos and Asians and a few blacks, and a woman with a broken arm and a man with violet hair and key rings in his ears.

They all hoped to catch a peek of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Some carried cameras, and as the afternoon wore on (clouds, muggy sunshine, chills) a skittishness infected the crowd, and people began surging, and you'd hear nervous laughter and an occasional yelp.

But they were also orderly outside the respectable Church of the Sacred Heart.

I'd been reading a shocking article on Mother Teresa in Vanity Fair by the witty but shameless Christopher Hitchens, who calls the 84-year- old servant of India's poor "the Great White Whale of modern sainthood."

If she's so unworldly, Hitchens asks, how come she knows so many rich, powerful people? "If she's so sweet and tender, why did she say that no family using contraception should be allowed to adopt a child? If she's so nonideological, why did she say that the Inquisition was right and Galileo was wrong?"

The people outside the church would have found such lines blasphemous. Maura McGregor, for example, who's 8 years old, told me, "We made this sign, me and my brother, and it said, 'Welcome to Atlanta, Mother Teresa. We love you.' "

Maura shivered. A cloud had crossed the sun.

"She blessed each one, " Maura's father, Bernie, said of his two children's encounter with Mother Teresa earlier in the day. "It was a very emotional experience. She's a living saint, as my wife says."

She's also politic. One of Mayor Campbell's spokesmen told me, "She asked specifically that the mayor sit with her."

Everything inside the church looked creamy and golden and candle- lit, and soon about 500 people were seated and listening to perfect voices singing and trumpets sounding.

Suddenly a tiny woman we all recognized from her photo-icons (she wore what seemed a dish towel over her head) entered from behind the altar, and the whole place broke into applause.

Her back was hunched, her sweater blue, her sandals plain - and her face sallow, as India can make a face. (But maybe she was like that as a girl, in Albania years ago.)

I had a clear view of her in her pew. Flashbulbs popped. She prayed with her forehead against the oak. She sang hymns in English, reading from a hymnal held by another member of her order. She pressed her hands together like a child when she prayed, palms flat, fingers upstretched. Her head seemed tilted with age and thought.

I think I saw her smile once. I saw her scratch her cheek. She seemed very old and disciplined and solemn.

After Mass, she got up and addressed the crowd. I couldn't hear much of what she said. She said most of it off the cuff.

It's impossible not to be impressed by her strength of purpose. I visited Calcutta once. The poor sleep in the darkened streets like rows of corpses.

I'm also reminded of Atlanta's homeless, and of its wealth, and of rare neighbors (women like Murphy Davis) who comfort the poor without the locust-like clattering of cameras that will probably follow poor Mother Teresa into the grave.

Mother Teresa tours AIDS hospice
Archbishop blesses House of Grace run by Nobel laureate's order

By Gayle White
6/13/1995

An overflow crowd of nuns and invited guests attended a private Mass with Mother Teresa of Calcutta at her order's Atlanta home for women with AIDS today.

Mother Teresa sat on a quilt on the floor of the front room of the house surrounded by nuns, said Gretchen Keiser, editor of the Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, who was one of the guests.

Other people stood shoulder-to-shoulder around them, she said.

After Mass, Mother Teresa and the four nuns who operate the Atlanta home accompanied Atlanta Archbishop John F. Donoghue on a tour of the hospice.

The archbishop blessed each room of the house, saying, "By the work that is done here, we pray that we will all be led closer to God and closer to a full understanding of his will for us."

Mother Teresa spoke briefly, requesting prayers for her order's work, Keiser said.

About midmorning, Mother Teresa left Atlanta by private plane for Charlotte, where she is scheduled to participate in a prayer service at the Charlotte Coliseum today.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun's only public appearance in Atlanta was at a crowded Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Monday attended by Mayor Bill Campbell.

She spent Monday night in the House of Grace, her AIDS home, with her four Atlanta nuns, five nuns visiting from Miami and four nuns who are headed to Charlotte to establish a mission there.

Her order came to Atlanta in 1993.

Police estimated that 700 people squeezed into the church where 400 seats were expected to be available. Another 500 to 600 waited outside listening to the service over a loudspeaker.

Surrounded by the 13 sisters in long white habits edged with blue stripes, the 4-foot-10 Mother Teresa sat and knelt with her gnarled hands folded in prayer during much of the service. She quietly sang the choruses to hymns and said the words to Our Father.

The Mass, which also marked the 98th birthday of the church at 353 Peachtree St., focused on the Beatitudes, the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount in which he proclaimed the poor and the meek to be blessed.

"To be happy, we must be simple, " Donoghue said in his homily. "We must admit the sorrow of human life. We must long not for self- fulfillment but for holiness."

He cited Mother Teresa and her nuns as an example, describing them as "the living action of Christ's love in our community."

Barely taller than the lectern she stood behind, Mother Teresa spoke to the worshipers, describing her work in bringing comfort, "salvation and sanctity" to the destitute.

Mother Teresa's visit mostly private

400 will be admitted on first-come basis for Mass at Sacred Heart Church

By Gayle White
Published: 6/9/1995 

The public's only chance to see Mother Teresa when she visits Atlanta next week will be at a Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Monday, according to officials of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Mother Teresa is scheduled to arrive in Atlanta on Monday and attend a Mass to be celebrated at the church, 353 Peachtree St. N.E., by Atlanta Archbishop John F. Donoughue at 3:30 p.m. Mother Teresa is expected to address the congregation briefly after the Mass.

Admission to the church, which seats about 400, will be on a first- come basis, said Monsignor Peter Dora, spokesman for the archdiocese. Loudspeakers will be set up outside for those who wish to hear but cannot get into the church, he said.

Mother Teresa will hold a news conference afterward.

"We are preparing in such a way as to guarantee her access to the public while respecting her needs, considering her age, " he said.

On Tuesday, the 84-year-old nun will attend a private blessing of the House of Grace, a home for women with AIDS her order established on St. Charles Avenue in 1993.

The Atlanta visit is part of her tour of the East coast facilities of the Missionaries of Charity, an order established by Mother Teresa in 1950. She will also visit facilities in Newark, New Bedford, Mass., Washington and Charlotte.

In addition to vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Mother Teresa's nuns also promise "wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor."

Mother Teresa has received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Templeton Award and the Padmashri Medal, India's highest honor, for her work with lepers and the dying in India.

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