Paths of Daring Deeds of Hope



In a presentation at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in August, 1990, Sister Donna Markham, O.P. suggested that fear of certain losses deters contemporary religious from vigorous pursuit of their ministries; we dread the loss of comfort, the loss of security and the loss of respectability. Mother Theresa is a model for confronting that fear. Clearly, comfort, security and respectability were never priorities with her. She sacrificed them repeatedly in fidelity to her vocation; indeed, she seems rarely even to have taken them into consideration which was a characteristic of Theresa's life.

In the 1980s our attention was drawn to the phenomenon of "refounding" of religious congregations. We reflected on the challenge of responding to the changing needs of contemporary society. We recognized the obligation that we offer a radical witness to Jesus and His mission, a witness both courageous and compassionate. The price of this witness is high: the abandonment of accustomed comforts and securities for unfamiliar but urgent calls to service, the loss of the status and prestige we had previously experienced in much of our society, the demand of wariness lest we be co-opted by contemporary societal values in conflict with Christian spirituality, the challenge of an authentic identification with the poor and oppressed in personal and communal decisions. We were advised to "Go where the life is," to seed out the life-giving and life-supporting options of lifestyle and ministry, even if they required radical departures from choices which, while comfortable, were no longer responsive to the needs of the people of God.

We recognize that the persons who would lead us in our refounding would be those who live on the "edges," who by dint of virtue or circumstances, or both, have been able to escape the lure of the established and familiar and see clearly what needs to be done. These persons, whom Daniel Berrigan once described as the "congenitally open-minded," have the freedom that comes of not being so heavily invested in the success of the existing institutions. Often it is service to the poor that has brought these individuals to the edges, where they signal to us the direction we ought to be taking as followers of the poor Christ.

... Mother Theresa was invariable ready to "Go where the life is." Her travels and troubles may be epitomized as a life-long pursuit of that goal. She was persuaded that the life of the Congregation depended first on its Alphonsian spirituality and then upon its unification. She made some of her most painful choices in support of that life.

At every stage of her life, Theresa was willing to forego comfort and security in the interest of life-giving service; she was constantly "on the edges." At times her choices were distasteful to others; in some cases she herself came to regret them. But from the perspective of a century we can see the life-giving results of those choices: in the foundation of two religious congregations in Baltimore and Michigan; in the establishment of a new mission field which eventually gave rise to two additional congregations, Scranton and Immaculata; and in the growth of faith-supporting ministries, particularly among poor, immigrant, and working-class people.

Theresa was often impetuous; she seems sometimes to have been rather headstrong and stubborn. But her heart was great and her courage undaunted. Her commitment to Jesus and her devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary lead her through many choices and supported her in many trials.


Gannon, Margaret (Ed.) (1992). Paths of Daring, Deeds of Hope: Letters by and about Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin. Scranton, PA: Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, MI and Scranton, PA