An Indian priest now working in the United States credits St Teresa of Kolkata with saving his vocation.
“She was the one who strengthened my priestly vocation and my faith in my priesthood,” Fr Robert D’Souza told Catholic News Service.
Fr D’Souza led a group of pilgrims from St Jude Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Rome for the canonisation of St Teresa.
As a newly-ordained priest in the Archdiocese of Kolkata, Fr D’Souza said he came to know the woman who already was regarded by many as a “living saint”.
“I knew that she would be a saint one day,” he told CNS. “And now it’s happening; it’s a great feeling to have known a saint.”
Shortly after his ordination in 1973 he met Mother Teresa. At the time, Fr D’Souza served as the director of Boys Town, an orphanage in Kolkata. “I had about 600 boys; working for them, looking after them and caring for them as a father and mother,” he recalled.
The Indian priest often met with Mother Teresa, who was a member of the board of directors of the all-boys orphanage. He grew close to the nun, often visiting her congregation to celebrate Mass.
However, during that time, the demands of his work as both priest and adoptive parent to the orphaned children began to take its toll.
“I was wavering in my priesthood; I didn’t find any meaning and there was a time that I just wanted to give up,” Fr D’Souza said.
Before deciding to abandon his priestly ministry, Fr D’Souza decided to visit Mother Teresa and tell her he was going to “take a break”.
Upon his arrival, he recalled, Mother Teresa “was waiting for me”, and “she straightaway took me into the chapel”. After praying for half an hour, she asked him, “Father, what is the problem?”
After Fr D’Souza told Mother Teresa his decision to take a break from the priesthood, she immediately asked him, “How often do you pray?”
“I don’t pray,” he said he told her. “I say my Mass and I’m busy during the day.”
“Go back and pray before the Blessed Sacrament every day. Then after a month, come back. Put out your worries to the Lord every day,” she instructed him.
The young priest obeyed and committed himself to “praying intensely” in front of the Blessed Sacrament for one month. There, in the silence of his prayers, Fr D’Souza said he found “solace and all my problems disappeared”.
“I committed myself once again to my priesthood because of her,” he said.
Now, as an associate pastor at St Jude’s and chaplain at Parkview Medical Centre, Fr D’Souza said he still carries in his heart the lesson given to him by Mother Teresa.
“One thing I learned about from her is praying before the Blessed Sacrament, having a strong prayer life, never to give up but take it one day at a time, and the rest leave to the Lord. That is what I learned,” he said.
“Today,” he said, “the most important thing for everyone – for me as a priest, for every Christian or anybody – is to let go and leave (everything) in the hands of the Lord and live for today.”