On Sunday, September 4, 2016 Pope Francis canonized Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, thereby raising her to sainthood. She was truly a living saint in our lifetime.  On October 7, 1950 Mother Teresa received approval from the Vatican to establish the "Missionaries of Charity" which remains well-known in India.  She willingly and with tremendous love served the "poorest of the poor."  Mother Teresa once said, "“Holiness is not the luxury of the few.  It is a simple duty for each one of us.”  Let us follow her loving and holy example with all whom we come into contact.


Blessed/Saint Mother Teresa
By Naima S. Panow MD FRCS


The articles below on Mother Teresa were written years before Mother Teresa was canonized as a Saint. The articles are written by one of Medjugorje USA beloved staff writers, Naima Panow MD. Naima worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India. Sadly Naima had a stroke on July 26, 2010 and is now in a nursing home. She still prays daily for Medjugorje USA and for the conversion of all souls who do not know God.


Mother Teresa on Possessions 

Mother Teresa's Business Card




I was blessed to sit and talk to Mother Teresa in Calcutta only few months before her death in 1997. Arriving to Calcutta and booking in the hotel just three minutes from Mother’s home, gave me the chance to rush to meet Mother Teresa. Sister Brittney welcomed me and told me, “Mother is not doing well and just left the ICU; you better go to the hotel and rest until tomorrow morning.” Suddenly a nun passed by and when she heard I am the doctor who would bring the requested medications, she introduced herself as Sister Shanti who is a medical doctor. Sister asked me to bring the medicine now and she would wait for me in the lower floor. A Spanish volunteer, working in Calcutta for six months, carried the large 40-pound box. He was staying in the same hotel. He speaks only Spanish. A young volunteer from Brazil translated what I was asking. We rushed to Mother’s home, he carried the box and I was carrying a large bag filled with 80 rosaries, the small  box of medicine donated by the Providence hospital contains the requested expensive medicine and many gifts from me in the name of my mother.


Sister Shanti opened the boxes and her eyes were so bright and happy. Sister got up and said, “I think Mother should see this. We have been waiting for this.” Sister Brittney told her, “Mother is sick and better leave her alone.” Sister Shanti told her, “I am her doctor and I think Mother would be happy to see this.” Few moments later, she came down telling me with a big smile, “Mother like to see you andthank you in person. I rushed up the stairs following Sister Shanti.


I sat down on the wooden bench facing the large curtain hanging down from the door. My eyes never moved waiting to meet the future Saint. The curtain was opened on one side and the big giant in name and small in size looked at me with an angelic smile. I knelt down and kissed her hand. Mother helped me to stand up and looked through my eyes filled with tears. I felt I am in the presence of the future Saint. Mother welcomed me holding the Miraculous Medal in her hand. Mother kissed it and gave it to me asking me to wear it all the time. She said I got this from Lourdes. I thanked Mother and told her, I did not get this medal when I was in Lourdes. Mother asked, “Which country you came from?” I told her, “I came from the USA. I am an American citizen and originally from Iraq. Mother looked at me and said, “I have been to Iraq and I opened three homes in Baghdad.” I told mother, I did see your pictures in the Red Cross and Red Crescent center.


Mother looked at the large box already opened by sister Shanti. I gave Mother my gifts of Honey, 3- boxes of Chocolate, many other small gifts. Mother asked the nuns to put the chocolate boxes on her desk. Went through the medicine containers and sister Shanti told her they are very important to our patients. Sister Shanti told her about the small box donated by Providence hospital, which is very important for Typhoid, Malaria and anti diarrhea.  I told Mother this small box cost $5500.00. Our Archbishop Francis George helped me to get it. Mother thanked me again and asked me to tell them thank you in the name of my poor and myself. I promised I would do that. I opened my large carry on luggage and held in my hands two bags filled with Rosaries. Mother looked at me with a sad eye telling me, “Doctor we make the rosaries here in our hands and we cannot buy them.” I smiled and asked her to bless my Rosaries and I would give her a bag of 30 rosaries. Mother asked the nun to put them on her desk with the chocolate boxes. After blessing my rosaries, I gave her 50 pamphlets saying the rosary. Mother pulled them from my hand and I tried to get few from her hand to be blessed and given to my family. It was so nice to see mother is trying to pull on one side and I was pulling from the other side. Then I told Mother to give me 3-4 to give to my family. Like a little girl, she smiled and gave me few. That was a pleasant moment.


Mother sat on the wooden bench and asked me to sit next to her. Facing us was Sister Shanti so happy with the medicine. Mother looked at her and said, “Sister this small box cost $5500.00 hold it and do not lose it.” Sister smiled and held the box in her hand. Few minutes later Mother looked at sister Shanti telling her, “Hold that box close to your chest, it cost $5500.” I smiled and told mother, “You are acting just like my mother.” Mother Teresa smiled and stood up and blessed me.


We talked for more than an hour. Mother told me, “I went on my knees and asked President Bush begging him not go to war especially Kuwait and Iraq could deal with this politically and not war.” Mother said, “Doctor I was disappointed and as far as I know only the Holy Father and my self were able to call and ask him not to go to war.” Mother looked so sad. Mother talked about the effect of the war and said, “That war was unnecessary and for what? Thousands of buildings bombed, millions suffered, thousands of orphans, hundred of children suffered and are handicapped, thousands killed, many widow and many homeless.” As she wrote from Baghdad saying, “How any human can do that to another human. Buildings could be repaired or build again, but how could you rebuild the trust between the injured country and the most military powerful country in the world. No one gains from the war.” We talked about my family and the suffering of the Iraqi people. Mother was so happy when I told her, “My mother is called Mother Teresa of Basra. My mother gave me a book in Arabic titled- The friend of the poor, Mother Teresa.” We talked about the embargo imposed by the USA through the UN and the effect on the civilians. Like the Holy Father she said, “Embargo is another way of war. One cause sudden death by arms and the other one cause the death slowly due to starvation and diseases.”


Mother held my hand and told me, “Doctor you should come at 6 pm we have the Rosary and the Holy hour. Tomorrow morning come at six to attend the mass.” I promised I would.

I know her face was filled with pain and suffering. You see the lines all over her face. To me she had the most beautiful face. Her fingers were damaged by arthritis, her toes were so much damaged from arthritis and her feet were swollen because she had heart failure. Mother was coughing and her back curved. I could not believe how short she was. I am short but mother is shorter than me.  I told friends only short people go to heaven. No one believed me of course.


Just before she went in her room, she said, “Doctor I am going to Rome in May and then I am going to New York.” I told her, Mother you just left the ICU and this trip would be a long one. Mother smiled and said, “Doctor do not worry, Jesus Christ would take care of me.” I told her, Mother you have the best primary care physician ever.” She giggled and said, “Do not forget, 6 pm is the Holy hour and tomorrow 6 am the mass.”


I went to my hotel and unpacked. By 5.45 pm I went to Mother’s home to attend the holy hour. I was so surprised to see the large chapel filled with volunteers, Novice nuns and other graduated nuns, working in the house. The chapel was very simple. There are many large windows over looking the streets. The smell of the gas and smoke coming from passing noisy cars never upset Mother. Since there are no fans, the dirty wind coming from the street made so many nuns getting sick. There was only one electric fan for the priest when saying the mass. There was one small Alter in the middle and few statues close to the Alter. The Alter was covered with many alter sheets. Mother noticed one of the sheets was turned on one side, she asked Sister Nirmala to go and correct it.


On the corridor leading to the chapel, there were 3 doors. The first door was for the visitors and the volunteers, the middle door for Mother Teresa, Sister Nirmala and other older nuns. The last door was for the Novices and the other nuns. There are no chairs and all of us sit on the floor except mother sat on the chair or the wheel chair. Sister Nirmala sits on the floor next to Mother ready to show her the page. Mother like the Holy Father did not use glasses.


I had back spasm due to sitting in the airplane and staying two nights and three days in Singapore I had fracture spine in Egypt few years earlier. Mother noticed that I was having some difficulty getting up or sitting on the floor. Next morning I found one of the wooden benches moved to the back of the chapel. On one side of the door was Mother Teresa and on the other side myself. Later on another Indian man with weak legs sat next to me. Mother looked at me and smiled.


One of the days I went to the mass at 6 am, I found the bench was occupied by, the Indian man and two older Australia volunteer. I sat on the floor gladly attending the mass, suddenly somebody tapped on my left shoulder. I turned my head to find the Indian man asking me to move. Mother pointed to me to get up and sit on the bench. Mother asked the two women to leave the bench. I could not believe how Mother noticed my pain. No one ever tried to sit on the bench. Mother always turned her face to smile at me and give me the sign of peace. Her face did glow during the mass.


One day I came back from my work, mother was already talking to some visitors, she looked at me and said, ‘Doctor do you have your business card?” I rushed to find mine, she smiled and said take mine. I asked mother to sign her business card, she did. I asked if possible to sign another one, because one 8 years old boy asked me to get your signature. I told her he is going to be a priest. Mother said, “Good, good ask him to be a priest for the Missionary of Charity.” I told her, Mother he asked me to ask you how much you would pay him? Every body laughed including Mother. She said, “Tell him Jesus Christ would pay him.”


During the Rosary and the Holy hour at 6 pm, one of the nuns tapped on my shoulder. She asked me to tell Mother you love her. You make her happy and she always giggle when she walks in her room. The nun told me, “We are three nuns taking care of Mother. I would slow the wheel chair as soon as we leave the chapel and you come out and tell her you love her.” I came to Mother and told her, Mother I love you and we all love you very much. Mother made the sign of peace, smiled and said, Thank you.


Mother always welcomed the visitors before lunch and after noon. I noticed there were many groups from Argentine, Brazil, Sweden, Germany, Australia, India, Philippine and so on. Many times after finishing with the visitors she used to sit and talk to me and some men who needed to talk asking for her help. That was why the other nuns used to ask me to talk to her because you never ask her to change the world. I used to notice a young Indian man attending the mass every morning. I told him, “You must be a very strong Catholic.” He smiled and said, I am an Atheist, but I come because of Mother.


Few days before leaving, few visitors were still waiting to see Mother who did not feel well. I stood in the open corridor, suddenly sister Shanti came out from the curtained door, following her a man. Sister Shanti said, “Doctor this is Dr Panow from the US, then looked at me saying, this is Mother’s doctor.” I asked him how is Mother doing now is she OK? He said, “She is doing fine but I asked her to rest all the afternoon.” I smiled noticing Mother was already talking to visitors. I told him, turn around and see who is behind you. He smiled and said, “I guess she is doing fine.” No one was able to ask her to rest in bed. That is Mother.


The last day before leaving Calcutta, I went to Mother’s home to give them the food, medicine and others before leaving that night. The nun who answered the ring, opened the door with a smile, she said, “We need chocolate before we let you go by.” I told her, Mother got every thing and ask her to give you some. The three nuns were laughing and said, “Yes we know but Mother always share every thing with us, this time the boxes of chocolate are gone.” They told me, it is easy to talk to me and we would miss you. Later on in the airport, I noticed one of the nuns of Missionary of Charity was taking the airplane to Singapore I stopped to say Hi. She smileed and told me, Mother was in our home this afternoon at 4.30 pm. We hade 30 Novices finishing their study and become nuns. Mother brought us three boxes of Chocolate and new Rosaries to celebrate the occasion. I guess that was why Mother asked the nuns to take the chocolate boxes and the rosaries to be put on her desk.


Before leaving to the airport, I attended the rosary and the Holy Hour at 6 pm. The nuns knew I am leaving that day, they told me, “We would stop the wheelchair on the way back to her room, you come and say Good Bye to Mother.” I knelt down and kissed her feet then her hand asking her to bless me before leaving to the airport. Mother smiled and blessed me then she asked me, “Where are you going?”

I told her to the USA to Oregon. Mother looked at me holding my hand in her two hands telling me thank you for the medicine and the gifts for my poor. I told her the Archbishop helped me to get the small box. Mother said, “I have three requests from you; 1- Give my thanks to the Archbishop and ask him to pray for my Charity. 2- Give my thanks to the Providence hospital, 3- Ask your Bishop or Archbishop to invite me to open a home in Oregon or Washington.” I promised I would do that and told her, I would be glad to be the doctor of your poor in Oregon.


Mother still holding my hand she said, “Doctor I started this Missionary of Charity with nothing. I started as one person and I did it alone. Then I had more people to come and work with me. I did that alone.” I smiled and told her, “Mother you did not do it alone.” Her eyes were surprised. I told Mother, “You had God, Jesus, Mary and St Joseph helping you.” Mother smiled and giggled, “I am sure they did, I could not do it with out them.” Then I told Mother our Archbishop Francis George the Holy Father appointed him to go Chicago. Mother asked me, “What happen to their Cardinal?” I told her he died two months ago. Mother looked very sad and in a low voice said, I did not know. One of the nuns told her, Mother you were in the ICU and we could not tell you that. Mother looked at me and told me, “Doctor tell your Archbishop he must be a Holy Man to be chosen by the Holy Father to be the Cardinal of Chicago, please ask him to pray for my charity.” I promised her again I would do that. Mother kept holding my hand with a proud note said, “I have homes in 120 countries and I do have 980 homes all over the world.” I told her, Mother I heard you got homes in 126 countries. She smiled and said, “That much?”


Mother looked weaker and with a sad look on her face. She knew her life in this world is going to end soon and to her she has not finished God’s work yet. I am sure she wanted another 50 years to finish the job. Knowing Mother Teresa, she would do her best in heaven to support her charity work. I know I was blessed by a Saint.


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