In Mother’s footsteps

For Mother Teresa’s 100th, college lights up, names nursing building

by Steve Johnson

ATCHISON — Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta loved her lepers, as well as the other sick and dying she lifted from the gutters.

How did she do it? With love.

“I see God in every human being,” she once said. “When I wash the leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”

This kind of beautiful experience will be perpetuated in Kansas and beyond thanks to the opening of the new Mother Teresa Center for Nursing and Health Education in Atchison. There, students will learn about the “beautiful experience” of caring for the sick and dying.

The new center was presented to the public during a grand opening on Aug. 26. As a crowd sang “Happy Birthday, Mother Teresa,” three of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, along with Benedictine College nursing students and staff, pulled the ropes that released a blue banner inscribed with the words “Mother Teresa Nursing Center.”

“From this day forward, let this building be known as the Mother Teresa Center for Nursing and Health Education,” said Benedictine College president Stephen D. Minnis.

Blue and white balloons lofted into the air behind the former Ramsay Medical Building, which Atchison Hospital donated to the college for use by the program.  Earlier, Archbishop Joseph Naumann blessed the building and dedicated it to Mother Teresa on the 100th anniversary of her birth.

The event brought dignitaries and old friends alike to Atchison. At the luncheon following the dedication, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) shared stories of his encounters with Mother Teresa.

“She could teach a deep theological lesson in seven words,” he said, adding that she was influential in his conversion to Catholicism.

Benedictine Sister Veronica Daniels, an alumna of the college from the class of 1969, shared what it was like to be Mother Teresa’s personal nurse.

“Whenever she spoke to you, it was like you were the most important person in the world,” she said.

Benedictine College’s new nursing program began its first clinical classes on Aug. 25 and will graduate its first nurses in 2012.

“We are delighted to welcome 19 students to our new nursing program,” said Dr. Lynne Connelly, director of nursing. “We anticipate a great deal of growth in this program as Benedictine College helps to address the serious and growing need for nurses in America.”

Benedictine Sister Anne Shepard, prioress of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery in Atchison, shared recollections of Mother Teresa’s visit to the Mount on June 9 and 10, 1981, when Benedictine College operated a south campus there.  While visiting the Benedictine communities of Atchison, Mother Teresa said, “I beg you to give Jesus to the young people in your care.”

Sister Anne sprinkled holy water on the building with Abbot Barnabas Senecal, abbot of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison. Jackie Harris, a Benedictine alumna and registered nurse who helped launch the nursing program, added a St. Benedict Medal to the foundation of the new building.

The naming of the nursing center was the latest in a series of events at Benedictine College celebrating Mother Teresa’s centenary.

The night before, the college hosted a block party for students in front of the campus’ Haverty Center and shot off fireworks in honor of the Nobel Peace Prize winner. St. Benedict’s Abbey Church tower, St. Scholastica’s Hall tower, and the Haverty Center were lit blue for the occasion, among other campus buildings. Blue lighting continued through Sept. 8.

As part of the dedication to Mother Teresa, the campus also installed in the entryway to the nursing center an original portrait entitled “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta,” by Dawna Gardner, an artist from Maine. The portrait was donated to the college by Stephen and Amy Minnis.

“I can think of no better model to give our nursing students and no better message to send them,” said Minnis. “Every day, when our nursing students enter through those doors, they will see that beautiful image of Mother Teresa caring for a child and read the words: ‘Give your hands to serve and your hearts to love.’”

The approximately 12,000-square-foot center includes two large classrooms, a clinical skills lab, a high-fidelity simulation room, seven faculty offices, additional administrative offices, an area for practicing clinical assessment skills, and several computer labs and study areas for students.

Missionaries of Charity Superior General Sister M. Prema wrote a letter to Benedictine College granting permission for the naming of the building on behalf of the congregation of Sisters that Mother Teresa founded.

“Our hope and plan for Benedictine College students is that by focusing on Mother Teresa they will learn to do something beautiful for God in our own day,” said Father Brendan Rolling, OSB, college ministry head.


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