Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mother Mary Teresa Tallon

The woman who founded the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate with whom I've been on retreat this week is Mother Mary Teresa Tallon.  She was born on a farm near Utica, NY in 1867, the seventh of eight children of her Irish immigrant parents.  At 19 she entered the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul but left after a few months.  Shortly thereafter she entered the Holy Cross Sisters in South Bend, IN where she stayed for 33 years.  She felt a strong call to start a new congregation that would go into the streets and homes and, like the Good Shepherd, find those who were drifting away or had left the faith.  The Parish Visitors were founded on August 15, 1920 and Mother Mary Teresa died on March 10, 1954.

She gave many talks to her Sisters which were taken down in short-hand, typed, and published in a series of books.  During this week, I've found myself resonating with her words and quoting her frequently.

In the Sisters' Constitutions, describing the spirituality of the congregation we read: "Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate are to be contemplatives for the street.  They are to have cloistered hearts, safeguarding a faithfilled contemplative spirit in the midst of the world, and bringing to the people they serve the fruits of their contemplation."  This sounds very much like the Jesuit ideal of being "contemplatives in action."  The Parish Visitors do not live in a cloister away from the world.  In fact, Mother Mary Teresa said to her Sisters: "Your cloister is the Sacred Heart."

In my work with the Apostleship of Prayer I often speak about Pope Benedict's Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis where he calls the Eucharist a mystery to be believed, celebrated, and lived.  Mother Mary Teresa's spirituality was very Eucharistic.  She said:

"In the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, every morning, we offer Jesus, the Divine Victim, to His Father, in union with the priest, and as we do so we offer ourselves with Him and our poor, needy people as well.  The best prayer is the liturgy of Holy Mass, therein we ask that all may be saved--through the power of Christ in His Holy Church.  This thought strengthens our faith, sustains our hope, augments our love.  We pray the Mass; we live the Mass...."

In every Mass we offer ourselves with Jesus to the Father.  But we need to be conscious of this, as Mother Mary Teresa said:

"Offer yourself in sacrifice during Holy Mass, every day; ... lift and offer yourself up to God with Jesus at the Elevation--a complete holocaust."

Though this offering is made with Jesus at Mass, it is then lived throughout the day.  I was pleased to find Mother quoting a version of the Child's Daily Offering Prayer that we use in the Apostleship of Prayer and telling her Sisters to renew their offering throughout the day with this simple prayer.  She said:

"She may unite her heart, a seemingly small offering, to the infinite offering of Christ, by frequently saying the following simple verse that she may have learned as a child:

My God, I offer Thee this day
       All that I do, or think, or say,
Uniting it with what was done
       On earth by Jesus Christ, Thy Son."

What inspired Mother Mary Teresa to found a new congregation and what continues to inspire her Sisters is the love the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  It is what inspires the daily offering of all Apostles of Prayer as well.  Mother wrote:

"The Sacred Heart's inspiration of charity caused this Community to be established, and it will be the same inspiration that will perpetuate it successfully."

The fire of love within the Heart of Jesus set Mother Mary Teresa's heart on fire with love for all those who were at risk of not knowing or rejecting the love of God.  She encouraged her Sisters:

"Rise to the height of the true spiritual standard: the very Heart of the Good Shepherd."  And she said that "the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate ... take the message from the Heart of Jesus, that was lit at His Heart's flame and fostering the grace, they ignite other souls, that these may be brought to share in the favors that they themselves possess. ... Through all their activity they carry with them the light and heart of divine love."

The Sisters publish a quarterly magazine called The Parish Visitor which contains many more of Mother Mary Teresa Tallon's writings.  An annual subscription is only $5 and it can be obtained at:

The Parish Visitor Magazine
P O Box 658
Monroe, NY   10949

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