Local priest who knew Mother Teresa speaks ahead of her canonization

- Monsignor Michael Mannion of the Camden Archdiocese celebrates mass at most precious blood parish in Collingswood.

The 70-year old priest is dedicated to carrying on the legacy of Mother Teresa, whom he met as a 24 year old American seminary student in Rome while working with the city's poor.

"She always had time for everybody, you know. She was very human. She had a great sense of humor."

It was 1969, Monsignor Mannion says he was asked by a religious sister there if he had access to a car to pick up the head of their order, the Missionaries of Charity, who was flying into Rome from India.

It was the beginning of a 28-year friendship between Mannion and Mother Teresa.

"The less she tried to impress people, the more she did. Her extraordinariness was found in her ordinariness and her holiness."

Mannion was ordained a priest in December of 1971 in Rome. He says Mother Teresa could not make it, but left this memento for the sisters to give to him.

"Dear Father Mike, be a Holy Priest. God Bless, Mother Teresa."

Mannion worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta.

He would maybe see her a half dozen times a year and would often take pictures of mother meeting her many admirers.

His favorite, this magical moment of Mother Teresa and a little baby at the gift of peace house in Washington D.C.

The framed photo now hangs in his office for all to see.

"That brought out the very best smile of Mother, the eyes say it all. People who look at Mother's picture, not having known her, say "Oh look at the wrinkles," people that met her never noticed the wrinkles, the only noticed the smile and the eyes."

On September 5, 1997, Mother Teresa died at the age of 87, after finishing her dinner and prayers. Her weakened heart finally gave out.

Shortly after her death, St. Pope John Paul II waived the 5-year waiting period and allowed the process to declare her a saint to begin.

She was beatified in 2003, Monsignor Mannion remembers well that October day.

That is him standing there at the ceremony in the front with some 400 other priests.

"I just sat there in kind of awe of it."

Monsignor Mannion says he feels grateful and humbled to be attending Mother Teresa’s canonization on September 4.

"I think it will just be something to absorb and experience, not to try to figure out at the time, to try to absorb it with my heart and not my head."

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