For Sr. Mary Prema Pierick, Mother Teresa's impact did not come from her outward appearance, but from a personal encounter with the woman's unconditional and mother-like love and acceptance.
According to the Missionary of Charity, Mother Teresa's greatness defied her short stature, residing “inside” her. Upon meeting Mother Teresa for the first time, Sr. Prema told CNA / EWTN, “It was not appearance, but it was the way she related to me,” that was most striking. “That was an experience of a person who loves, and who accepts me, and who wants me, and is a mother to me.”
When “I saw her the first time she was already 70 years old, so she was already a little bent, but her eyes were full of life,” Sr. Prema said.
Sr. Prema was in her late 20s when she first met Mother Teresa in Berlin, Germany in 1980. She said she was inspired to meet the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity after reading the biography of her life, Something Beautiful for God by Malcolm Muggeridge. “I was impressed by the simplicity of life the sisters were having in Calcutta and I could not forget about it,” Sr. Prema said.
After this encounter with Mother Teresa, Sr. Prema continued to feel called to join the Missionaries of Charity. “Then slowly, as I became richer in my prayer life, I knew that I wanted to give all, all for Jesus,” she said. “And I didn't look for a congregation where I could compromise, having things for myself or conveniences, but I wanted to follow Jesus in this radical way of life.”
Elected to the position of Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity on March 24, 2009, Sr. Prema is the second to take over the order after Mother Teresa's death in 1997.
For Mother Teresa, Sr. Prema shared, there was not only much physical suffering in the world, but also an invisible and deep spiritual suffering, found “in sin, in addiction to sinful behavior.”
Spiritual suffering is a “real deep, deep suffering,” Sr. Prema said. “For those who are in the blindness of sin, but also for those who are suffering the consequences of those sins.”
The solution, to Mother Teresa, was simply to love Jesus and to practice mercy. “Mercy was like a second nature to Mother because of the love she had for Jesus. And she invited everybody to put their hands, and especially their heart, to love.”
To those thinking they may be called to a vocation to the religious or priesthood, Sr. Prema shared, “Do not be afraid to love and to give yourself.”
And for everyone, Sr. Prema reminded, “Let us not be in a hurry and in a rush to complete things and projects and plans and become deprived of what is really making us human, which is to love and to be loved.”
This article was originally published Aug. 15, 2016. Mary Shovlain contributed to this report.