Swede aids Mother Teresa's mission Nun's speech spurred action
   

Lois Lindstrom

05/03/97                                                                                     '

The Washington Times

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STOCKHOLM - As an affluent nation where churchgoing and charity are minimal, Sweden would seem an unlikely place to find the Missionaries of Charity, known for feeding starving people and comforting lepers in Calcutta.

 

Yet Sweden has become headquarters for the order's missionary work in Scandinavia, a development that began more than 20 years ago when Mother Teresa, who retired from her leadership last month, spoke in a church here.

 

"I was very touched by what she said," recalled Karin Wiking, who has been Mother Teresa's emissary in this part of the world ever since. "That night I volunteered to help her in Sweden and some of my friends joined with me to start a co-workers group."

 

Though Sweden's economy has been rocked by unemployment, it still ranks among the world's top 20 for income and purchasing power.

 

What a co-workers group can do in such a prosperous nation, Mrs. Wiking said, is send aid to the missions in poor countries and give individual attention to people who are sick or suffering.

 

In Scandinavia, she is the key contact for 75 co-workers who do such visitations in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. The co-workers keep a close relationship with one of Mother Teresa's nuns. They help people who are very ill, handicapped or very old.

 

Mrs. Wiking. for example, has 76 persons in Scandinavia she visits and prays for each year. The work is inspired by what Mother Teresa has done in society with far greater hardships, she said.

 

"Around the world, Mother Teresa has 165 homes for terminally ill people, leprosy patients and orphans," said Mrs. Wiking, who is in her mid-70s.

Last month, the spiritual and practical leadership of the order, which has 4,000 sisters and 400 brothers worldwide, was given by election to Sister Nirmala, 63, a Hindu convert to Catholicism.

Mother Teresa, a Nobel laureate, built the order more than 50 years. As she had done, now Sister Nirmala, a native of India, will oversee and help co-worker groups in many nations.

Mrs. Wiking was confident about the changes even before the election. "The nuns will elect the right person, and we will continue praying for people," she said last month.

In each country, co-worker groups meet once a month to pray for the people they care for. They also collect old white sheets that they cut and roll to make bandages for those afflicted with leprosy in Calcutta.

The Stockholm group sends 20 tons of bandages and used children's clothes to the Calcutta mission every year.

 

Mrs. Wiking believes their prayers work. She cited the example of a 35-year-old Lebanese man. on his way to four years in prison, who she met on her regular visits to the Stockholm jail.

"When I came to his cell he was crying," she recalled. "When he saw me, he asked me if I was Catholic. I said yes. He asked me if I would light a few candles for him at church and pray for him, and he handed me 20 crowns {about $3} I lit 10 candles for him that Sunday."

On returning the next day, she said, the man was calmer. "He had spoken to his lawyer, who seemed optimistic about his future. He handed me another 20 crowns and asked me to light more candles and pray. I lit another 10 candles and prayed for him."

 

Her visit to see the inmate the next week turned out to be a complete surprise, Mrs. Wiking said. "They told me he had been released from prison. He was free!

Photo, Mother Teresa (right) talks about her successor, Sister Nirmala, during a news conference by the two nuns in Calcutta on March 14. Sister Nirmala is a native-born Indian and a convert to Roman Catholicism.,

1997

   

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