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Posted on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 11 a.m.

Sacred Spaces: Mother Teresa on seeking out the lonely in our midst

By Moira Cullen


Photo by Turelio on Wikimedia-Commons-CC-BY-SA

Mother Teresa was recognized by countless people around the world for her commitment to serving the poorest of the poor in Calcutta and other parts of the world. In recognition of her humanitarian work, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

And yet, in her own words she recognized that loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted, so prevalent in the Western world, was a far worse poverty than the material deprivation of Calcutta.

Mother Teresa characterized loneliness as the "leprosy of the West" (Commonweal, Dec. 19, 1997). If there was anyone who understood leprosy, it would have been her. She cared for the unwanted lepers of India, and she saw the connection between these lepers, shunned by all levels of society, and those who felt unwanted and alone in the prosperous West.

Mother Teresa urged that we in the West don't need to travel to Calcutta, but rather we need to find the "poor" right in our own families and neighborhoods. It is a call to look around us, to seek out those who are hurting, and to do what we can to love them.

If you have children, like myself, these words can help shape the way we look at our children. We can either fill our children’s lives with moments of being loved and wanted more than anything else in the world, or we can make them feel as if they have inconvenienced us with their lives and needs. Truly, parents are the most influential people in their children’s lives, and we can do so much to give them a sense of love and security which they will bring with them into adulthood.

For me, I feel Mother Teresa's words are a challenge to step out of myself and to look for the little ways I can love the people around me. There are so many people that will never feel the touch of love unless we love them.

What are some ways that you can begin today to bring that love to the lonely in your midst?

Moira Cullen works with husband John Cullen in their family business, Celtic Gardens. She home-schools her four very energetic children, and writes in her spare minutes. To learn more visit:



Tue, Mar 29, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

Beautiful article! Thanks Moira for writing and thanks A2 news for encouraging it. This is a message that everyone needs to hear as there is lonliness all around us- especially in a college town like Ann Arbor. Many young people are away from home and have little connection with their community. Hats off to Moira and A2 news for reminding people to reach out to others!

Moira Cullen

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

Dear pbehjatnia, To clarify, I don't think that there is any one faith that holds a monopoly on compassion and a loving attitude towards our neighbor. Although Mother Teresa was Catholic, she served peoples of all faiths, and those of no faith. This is a woman who picked up people off the streets who were literally being eaten away by worms and disease, and she loved them just as they were. I am sure that her faith helped her to do it, but I know many people claiming a religion who wouldn't have the strength to do what she did. She is a wonderful example of the selflessness that all human beings are called to, and I believe that her example can serve to inspire people on a purely human level, all faith aside. Thank you for your comment.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

Excellent article. There is nothing "religious" or "Catholic" about being kind and caring to those who are lonely. It is a good reminder that we all are here for a short time and we have an opportunity to make a good impact on people while we are here...or not. It's our choice.

Susan Montgomery

Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 11:04 p.m.

Moira - Very thoughtful article, thanks for reminding us to take care of the lonely among us. I have to disagree with pbehjatnia, I didn't see it as a religious article at all, and that's coming from an atheist usually sensitive to such religious intrusions... There are lessons to be learned everywhere if we keep our eyes and minds open...


Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 10:04 p.m.

Nice article!


Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 7:36 p.m.

Regardless of your faith, mother teresa in an inspiration to anyone who understands that we need to be compassionate people. And with the advent of social networking and technology and our ability to "communicate" without ever seeing another person face-to-face really brings the lonliness issue to the forefront. It reminds us that WE are the people that should be making the change not "they".

Edward Vielmetti

Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

A comment was removed because it relied on unsubstantiated allegations to make a personal attack.


Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

Nonsense. The comment that was removed did not attack anyone personally. It merely attempted to balance the misinformation that was set forth by this opinion piece. In deleting the comment you have censored legitimate dissent against the idea that Mother Teresa was the saintly presence that the author holds her up to be. Ask the poor in Kolkata if she was worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.


Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 6:30 p.m.

why is there religion in the it seems just about any time i click into there is a religion article. mostly christian, predominatly catholic. i thought this was a NEWSpapwr? to report on news ? not a passive conduit for churches? mosques? temples? ugh.

Rod Johnson

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 4:23 a.m.

Religion is a thing that exists like any other thing. It's a part of the community, just like finance, politics, pets and sports. What newspaper doesn't cover religion?