Mother’s Maori moments
Pa Henare Tate (Kohukohu) looks back on the encounter between Mother Teresa and Maori in 1973.
A big contingent of the Māori community of Te Unga Waka attended the welcome to Mother Teresa during her visit in 1973. The reception for her was held at Alexandra Park.
Rangimārie Culture Group attended to the pōwhiri. During the pōwhiri, Dame Whina Cooper pinned three baskets of knowledge on to Mother Teresa’s habit.
In the photo published in Zealandia, the three baskets are clearly visible.
One of the photographs taken at the reception captures the moment when I had the rare opportunity of meeting and talking with Mother Teresa.
I remember a korero among the crowd: “E hoa mā, ko te nohinohi o tēnei none, ka mutu he nui ngā mahi e mahi ana e ia mō te rawakore me te hunga kore kāinga” (what a tiny woman this nun is and yet there she is doing all this great work of helping the poor and the homeless).
The Māori community acknowledged the humility of spirit (not just her small stature) and the faith in action of Mother Teresa.
As they tried to get close to her that evening one of their comments was, “Kia pātata ki ā ia, kua pātata tātou ki te Atua” (if we get close to her we can get close to God).
The Māori community will, now, surely celebrate with her congregation of Missionaries of Charity worldwide the approaching proclamation of Mother Teresa’s humility, faith and closeness to God when she is numbered among the saints.
He kaupapa tēnei hei tuku korōria ki te Atua, hei īnoi kia ohooho anō te whakapono ki Aotearoa, ā, hei whakahonore i a Mother Teresa mō āna mahi mō te Atua, mō te tangata (this is an event in which we give glory to God, we pray for the reawakening of the faith here in Aotearoa, and we honour Mother Teresa for her tireless work for God and for people).
In the presence of a saint
NZ Catholic asked the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion for any memories they may have had from the time Mother Teresa stayed at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay in 1973. Sr Josephine Gorman, DOLC, replied:
During February 1973, Mother Teresa had been invited to New Zealand by the Catholic Doctors Guild, and while she was in Wellington she was the guest of the Sisters of Compassion. It was thought that she would feel more at home staying at The Home of Compassion.
The sisters met her at the airport and we felt very honoured to host this little woman whom we had heard so much about.
I remember it was a very exciting time for us, knowing we were in the presence of a saint.
We all felt her spirit was so like ours, and she reminded our senior sisters of our own mother foundress, many of whom knew Mother Aubert. Her programme in Wellington was very full, but all the sisters managed to meet her.
We were all impressed with her willingness to talk to each one of us and her goodness seemed to radiate from her.
Sr Sue remembers her saying, “You are very much like our sisters, but I beg you not to get rich”.
One of the sisters washed her sari and I remember we all wanted to touch it. Most of the sisters attended her inspiring midday lecture at the town hall, during which she said, “You don’t need to go to Calcutta to care for the poor; look in your own backyard”.
During her address I imagined what it must have been like many years before in 1910, when Suzanne Aubert was honoured in the same venue by the people of Wellington.
It was at the time of the golden jubilee of her arrival in New Zealand. As a tribute to a life of good works, Suzanne Aubert was presented with a cheque which she used to build a room for children with incurable illnesses.
Doctor Izard replied on Suzanne Aubert’s behalf, calling her the “Grand old Lady”, no longer just of Wellington, but of New Zealand.