A journalist recalls his meeting with Mother Teresa in 1966
A journalist recalls his meeting with Mother Teresa in 1966

A journalist recalls his meeting with Mother Teresa in 1966

A handwritten card by her is among his most treasured possessions, the former journalist said.

An American reporter who first brought news of Mother Teresa's work to a global audience still remembers the day in 1966 when he met the nun in the slums of Calcutta.

"Certainly she totally deserves to be a saint. In my eyes, she was a saint her entire life," retired Associated Press reporter Joe McGowan Jr told the Catholic News Agency (CNA). "She was so humble and yet so pleasant."

McGowan, 85, was an AP reporter for 42 years who covered wars, revolutions and earthquakes.

In 1966, he was an AP bureau chief covering India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the Maldives.

Trying to dig up more stories, he was speaking with a newspaper editor in Calcutta - now Kolkata - about anything unusual or ignored.

"He finally said 'Well, there's that funny little nun who goes around collecting dying people.' And I knew I had a story," McGowan told CNA.

The reporter took a taxi over to her home for the dying and spent two days with Mother Teresa.

She was dressed in a sari. "There was nothing pretentious about her at all," McGowan said.

The nun would walk around Calcutta with a two-wheel cart with the help of two men. "They went around picking up dying people.

"In those days there were not enough (hospital) beds in places like Calcutta. So if you were declared terminally ill, your family had to come and take you home so that there was a bed for somebody else," he said. 

"If nobody picked you up, they put you on the sidewalk to die."

McGowan said he was "extremely impressed" with her work. "I think that showed in my writing about her."

His AP account from March 1966 was the first international news story about her.

The journalist and the nun reunited when she visited Denver in May 1989. She passed him a written message.

"She gave me a card. In her handwriting, it says 'Love others as Jesus loves you. God bless you. M. Teresa, M.C.'"

McGowan says it's among his most treasured possessions.

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