Looking to find Mother Teresa’s legacy

Ashley Bach, Contributing Writer

Kristen Majocha was once a Duquense Unversity graduate student, writing her dissertation on prophetic rhetoric, with Mother Teresa as a case study. Once completed, her dissertation adviser suggested Majocha do follow-up research.

Last summer she decided to take her adviser’s advice and sought remnants of Mother Teresa’s work.

She contacted Sister Thelma of Missionaries of Charity, a congregation established by Mother Teresa in 1950.

Her roundtrip flight from Latrobe was under $400. Accompanied by her 13-year-old son, Mitchell Szymkowiak, she went to Ponce, Puerto Rico, to work at one of only two nursing homes in the city/municipality known as the Pearl of the South. Travel was simplified, Majocha said, by the fact Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the U.S.; they use American currency.

Every nursing home window was open, and when Majocha arrived, she said that the home was not air-conditioned. The temperature at that time was 95 degrees with humidity of 95 percent.

Majocha said she was surprised by the complete lack of odor in the nursing home and quickly noticed how clean the home was kept.

The 75 nursing home patients were out of bed at 6:30 a.m., regardless of condition, and remained out of bed for three to four hours. A breakfast of bread, cereal and coffee was served at 7 a.m.

Every patient was to shower after breakfast. During that time, Majocha, Mitchell and the other workers stripped beds and sanitized.

“Fresh all around, every day.”

Once the patients showered, they were given fresh clothes. Majocha and Mitchell went to bed early to rise early.

The patients were the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick. They lacked money or family.

Traditionally in Puerto Rico, families don’t send aging relatives to be taken care of. Majocha said the patients are going to die there. The nuns keep them in the best of care and are unpaid.

Majocha said she wanted to understand the nuns’ motivations.  A nun named Sister Rosa brought it to light. Rosa told her that people in the States work for $10 an hour, but they — the nuns of the nursing home] — work for God.

Majocha explains this as care ethics: why people care and how it affects their behavior.

“Nuns have faith,”  Majocha said. “(They) love their neighbor.”

Their compassion is  an outward sign of their faith. She then quoted Mother Theresa: “The fruit of faith is service.”

The idea of care ethics went on to become a driving force for Majocha’s Communication of Religion class. This semester, she had her students identify religious artifacts, the religion involved, what is being said and how it inspires people to care.

Mitchell said it wasn’t too fun, but he realized how good he had it here.

Majocha said she plans to turn her experience into a book, but only after returning for a significantly longer stay (August – December 2015). She  said she plans to take  her past research, as well as Mitchell and her other child, who she said are excited about the move. She said she intends to complete the book in six years.