(Photo credit: New World Encyclopedia)
Mother Teresa visited a lot of very special places in her time on this earth. In the photo above, she’s visiting the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then-President Ronald Reagan. Some 25 years earlier, Mother Teresa visited another house, the house we call The Leo House of New York City. As we celebrate the canonization of Mother Teresa, we here at The Leo House feel blessed that Saint Teresa visited and stayed here. The date of her visit was November 7, 1960, the day before JFK was elected President of the United States. Her prayers while staying at the Leo House were undoubtedly with the people of the United States as we voted for the first Catholic president in our nation’s history!
Mother Teresa certainly had a profound impact not only in Kolkata but in the United States and beyond. The Presidential Medal of Freedom was one mark of her accomplishments. She left her mark at the Leo House in a very real way with her signature in our guest book, a copy of which we still have today.
Mother Teresa’s Meeting with Mother Dengel
We know a few interesting facts about her visit, one of which is an important meeting that took place between Mother Teresa and Mother Anna Dengel. The Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa in India, was modeled after the Medical Mission Sisters, founded by Mother Dengel in Philadelphia, PA. Sisters in both communities are trained as doctors, nurses, and medical personnel. They also work in countries where women and the poor are underserved. Both communities worked closely together, but the two founders had never met until November 1960. Their fortuitous first meeting took place – where else! – at morning Mass in The Leo House Chapel and at breakfast. An excerpt taken from a biography of Mother Teresa’s life called, “Such a Vision of the Street” written from first-hand witness Eileen Egan who noted:
“Our plane arrived so late that I engaged rooms instead at Leo House, a plain hospice founded orginally for Catholic immigrants. With its chapel and quiet dining room, it was a convenient stopping-off place… Mother Teresa had often mentioned her gratitude to the Medical Mission Sisters…We went to chapel for an early Mass… Directly in front of us, I realized it was Mother Anna Dengel, foundress of the order… I looked at the two small women, neither one five feet tall… I could not help ponder on the mighty spiritual force incarnated by these two twentieth century Mother Foundresses.”
The Leo House was a welcoming place for these two founders in 1960. And it has served as a welcoming place for many others since 1889. We welcome all of you to stay here as well!
You can read more about the Leo House’s history here.
As for the future, who will you meet at the Leo House?