Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Missionary Learned Much from Mother Teresa, India; Four Weeks in Calcutta, Almost a Decade Ago, Were Marked by Profound Sadness, Unforgettable Personal Growth and Hope

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Missionary Learned Much from Mother Teresa, India; Four Weeks in Calcutta, Almost a Decade Ago, Were Marked by Profound Sadness, Unforgettable Personal Growth and Hope

Article excerpt

Byline: RACHEL DAVIS, The Times-Union

They're just words on a page scribbled in a notebook worn of its binding. But when she reads them aloud, she's back in that squalor, remembering that time just as she lived it almost a decade ago.

She remembers the four flights of stairs to the clothesline, and the pull of a laundry basket balanced on each side. It was repetitious, the climb and the chores, but soothing almost, and the view looked out over Calcutta, India.

And the morning chaos at Prem Dan, a home for the destitute suffering from tuberculosis or dementia, was loud and busy and almost overwhelming for the college student from Jacksonville. She remembers wondering what their screams meant. Were they hurting, were they angry or were they just discussing politics? Usually it was all those things.

It was the small woman, wrinkled and bent, who held Sarah's arm, looked directly in her eyes and told her the world needed more nuns. She thought seriously about it for two hours, but only because it was Mother Teresa who said it.

The memories Sarah Troup has of Mother Teresa are kept in a notebook with tattered edges, only brought out and read when the newspaper calls or a school or service club needs a guest speaker.

There's a lifetime of learning here, between her fingers.

Troup, 28, flipped through the pages of her journal Friday, remembering the four weeks she spent with the nun some believed was a saint -- and most merely admired. Although her saintly virtues are recognized by Christians from all corners and denominations, it has only begun to be made official with her beatification Sunday, six years after her death.

Troup was among a group of 12 students from Wake Forest University to travel to India. They would serve 17 days over the Christmas break with the Missionaries of Charity, and among the poorest of the poor.

She watched a nun pick maggots out of a wound and dress a body for burial. She washed soiled sheets and bathed withered and sick bodies.

It was the most humble of conditions, with buckets for a bath tub and a trench for a toilet.

Troup cooked meals and clothed and hugged crying boys. She lived the routine: Mass at 6 a.m., breakfast, work through until dinner and group reflection before bed.

For the first three days, she moved through the motions, numbed by her surroundings of despair and helplessness. These people were so different, she couldn't communicate with them, couldn't reach them.

Then, a single touch.

"There were women there that were just like me," Troup said. "I was just lucky to land where I did."

She visited a woman's bedside to massage her pain. Instead the woman reached for the lotion bottle, smoothed it over her hands and rubbed Troup's arms. …

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