by Marc and Julie Anderson
OVERLAND PARK — Let’s do something beautiful for God.
It’s both a saying and a philosophy of St. Teresa of Kolkata, according to Missionary of Charity Father Bob Conroy, and it’s something he hopes to impart to those who attend the Life & Hope Banquet on Sept. 1 at the Overland Park Convention Center.
Father Conroy, who grew up in Christ the King Parish in Topeka, will serve as the keynote speaker for the annual fundraiser for the Olathe and Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinics.
As only the third priest ordained to the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, the male branch of Mother Teresa’s famous order of women religious, serving “the poorest of the poor” was not part of his plan.
After graduating from Topeka’s Washburn Rural High School, Father Conroy studied as a priest for the archdiocese. Upon his graduation from St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana in 1983, the late Archbishop Ignatius J. Strecker sent him to the Pontifical North American College in Rome for theological studies. While there, he met the Missionaries of Charity and started volunteering alongside them during the summers in places such as Ireland and Tanzania.
Discerning a call to follow God in that order instead of in the diocesan priesthood, Father Conroy was ordained on Jan. 28, 1989, with Mother Teresa as a witness to his ordination in Tijuana, Mexico. Although he has lived all over the world, Father Conroy is currently right back where he started his priestly ministry, living in and serving the poorest of the poor in Tijuana. He also serves as the order’s vicar general.
Reflecting on St. Teresa’s thoughts about abortion, Father Conroy discussed the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast in which she addressed the president, the first lady, members of Congress and others by saying, “I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion because it is a war against the child. . . . A direct killing of the innocent child, ‘murder’ by the mother herself. . . . And if we can accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”
The speech became famous both for the saint’s direct words, but also for the reactions of those in the crowd who didn’t share the nun’s views.
“Mother Teresa was never interested in being politically correct,” Father Conroy said. “Even at her Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1979, she spoke about abortion. You could say they were giving her the award not as a pro-life representative but as a great humanitarian.
“How can we speak about world peace,” Father Conroy said she asked, “if there’s not peace between mother and her child?”
“And that certainly would have been politically uncomfortable, similar to her statements at that prayer breakfast,” he continued. “She wasn’t looking to gain points with politicians. At the same time, she wasn’t intentionally antagonistic.”
In fact, Father Conroy said, St. Teresa somehow always found a way to love those with whom she disagreed.
“Mother Teresa was always able to bring the good out of people. And so, with Hillary Clinton, she made that bridge toward her and together they opened a home for unwed mothers. And Hillary Clinton intentionally went to [Mother Teresa’s] funeral in Calcutta. She really felt loved by Mother Teresa, so it shows that the saints are able to, even though someone may be completely on the other side of a divide politically, create or build a bridge toward that person. That’s amazing,” Father Conroy said.
As to his banquet presentation, Father Conroy hinted he will discuss the notion of beauty and how everyone can imitate St. Teresa of Kolkata.
“When we touch that transcendental nature of God, we are transformed and that can be in all pro-life activities,” he said. “That can be in serving the mother, serving the children, answering the phone, whatever it is, we are encountering God himself, and that’s Mother Teresa living completely stripped down on that day-to-day level of just remaining at the cross and serving Jesus in the most vulnerable and in this case, they don’t even have a voice. Who’s going to speak for them? If the mother won’t speak, then who?”
To register or for more information about the fundraiser, go to the website at: LifeandHopeBanquet.com.