By Liz Sullivan
Their paths first crossed in Rome in the mid-1970’s when he was a young priest studying Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University and she was leading her order – the Missionaries of Charity, based in Calcutta, India.
The relationship and admiration, spanned the next 20+ years until she was called home to God in 1997.
Speaking to Bishop Patrick J. McGrath recently about his connection to now Saint Teresa of Kolkata, who was canonized on September 4 in Rome, it is easy to see the respect the Bishop of San Jose still has for the woman he called a “grandmotherly figure.”
“Her talk was always simple,” said the Bishop. “It was always about the poor. She was consumed with her mission about caring about those who had no one to care about them.”
The Bishop said when he was studying in Rome he volunteered with the Congregation of Bishops and a classmate Father Al Callahan, volunteered with the Congregation of Religious. Callahan introduced the Bishop to Mother Teresa, as she was famously known.
After graduating with his doctorate in Canon Law in 1977, the Bishop returned home to the Archdiocese of San Francisco and his path crossed many more times with Saint Teresa as the Bishop rose through the ranks as Judicial Vicar and Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco. Eventually the Bishop’s journey led him to Santa Clara County, where he met with Mother Teresa a few more times, usually in Rome.
“She always made me smile,” said the Bishop, who arrived in San Jose as Coadjutor to Bishop Pierre DuMaine in 1998 and became Diocesan Bishop in November of 1999. “She always seemed to have some new project she was working on. You couldn’t say no to her when it came to the poor.”
The Bishop said he was excited to see this woman who gave everything she had for the care of the poor become a saint, but to him she was already saintly.
“I always knew she was a saint,” said Bishop McGrath, with a smile of respect. “I knew, like Pope (Saint) John Paul (II) that she was in the presence of God. She radiated spirituality. I am very pleased for her and pleased she touched my life.”