Mother Teresa was a tiny woman who had a huge impact in India, where she did most of her work serving the poorest of the poor, and in the rest of the world, where people were inspired by her life of commitment to God and to others.
She received many honors for her work, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Among the others to recognize Mother Teresa for her work was Bellarmine College, a small Catholic college in my hometown of Louisville, Ky.
Bellarmine’s president in the early 1980s, Eugene Petrik, traveled to India to film the documentary “Work of Love” about the work of Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, in Kolkata. While there, he presented to Mother Teresa the Bellarmine Medal, the school’s highest honor, and he invited her to visit the school, today known as Bellarmine University.
In June 1982, Mother Teresa traveled to Jenkins, Kentucky, to open her order’s first rural mission in the United States. During her visit to the state, she came to Bellarmine where she held a press conference for the local media in the school’s library and then spoke to about 4,000 people crowded into the school’s basketball gym.
I was there as a young photographer to cover her visit. The photo at left is one of the photos I took on that day.
According to an Associated Press report at the time, she said that she accepted Bellarmine Medal “not as an honor that she earned, but as ‘one of the beautiful gifts God gives’ to help further her work with the poor.”
Thirty-four years later, Mother Teresa will receive the highest honor, one earned through a lifetime of love for others and God. As St. Teresa of Kolkata, the story of her life will be an inspiration for generations to come.
Photos by Rick Musacchio