A look into an incredible day with the Missionaries of Charity in NYC.
“Mother Teresa was standing right there, the Cardinal was right over there, Mayor Koch here, and I was about here. That’s when she grabbed the basement door and then turned to me and said, ‘This door needs a better lock, so no one falls down the stairs.’ The only thing that was ever on her mind was everyone else’s well being.”
This is the recollection of Len, who was with Mother Teresa from day one, when she opened the doors to what would be the first AIDS Hospice in America on Christmas Eve, 1985.
The Gift of Love Hospice was established in the rectory of St. Veronica’s Church in Greenwich Village on Manhattan’s Lower West Side, which was ground zero in the early days of the AIDS crisis. At first the Sisters’ presence was met with harsh resistance by the local community, but as they were seen bringing Christ’s unconditional love to those dying from what was an unknown disease that was all but a death sentence, the community rallied around them.
Mother Teresa’s only desire was “that nobody dies unloved and uncared for. We are hoping that they will be able to live and die in peace by getting tender love and care.″
As the AIDS epidemic subsided through medical advancements, the home’s role in the community evolved to caring for and providing residence for the poor and elderly. And on November 22, 2019, the Sisters and the residents were treated to a visit from the statue of Our Lady of Fatima that has toured the New York area over the past four weeks.
The statue, which was created at the Fatima Shrine in Portugal, recalls the miraculous apparition of the Blessed Mother to three children, Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal.
Fr. James Miara, Pastor of the Shrine of the Holy Innocents Parish on West 34th Street, arrived at the house just before 7:00 a.m. to celebrate Mass and give Benediction for the Sisters, volunteers, and residents, recalling in his homily the message of Our Lady of Fatima and stressing the importance of sacrifice, especially on behalf of sinners and the souls of the departed.
The tiny chapel into which all were crammed had been the place of countless funerals during the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, in this place where residents who had been abandoned by society and loved ones had found conversion, genuine love, and a place of rest in the arms of the Sisters.
The Missionaries of Charity mirror much of the Fatima message: Their steadfast care for the physical needs of those suffering from poverty, disease, and rejection; their witness of faith through the sheer power of unconditional love; and their fundamental view that they seek to serve Christ in each and every person they encounter.
Their “Yes!” to Christ echoes the young Virgin Mary’s, the only “Yes” that brings about true meaning and fulfillment.
As Fr. Miara withdrew, transporting the statue to its next stop at the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, the joyful Sisters waved white handkerchiefs — as if waving farewell to a dear friend, a site to behold on the busy New York City streets.
While a statue may just be a statue, in this case it’s more. It’s a symbol of the loving and compassionate Mother who watches over all of us, patiently leading us to what matters most in life, her Son.
Our Lady of Fatima, please pray for us.