At the beginning we called ourselves the Committee, Mother Teresa’s Committee. And that was too grand for her, much too grand. We’re co-workers, and she was one of the co-workers as well.
– Heather Bamberger (a West Byfleet Co-Worker)
Mother Teresa’s friendship with the people of Surrey started in 1954 when Ann Blaikie first became involved with her work in Calcutta. Other Surrey people – Margaret Mackenzie, Fey Bone, Pauline Smith, Pauline Perrett – joined her later. These women would later establish the Co-Workers in Surrey. From the 1960’s onward, communities of Co-Workers grew in Surrey, pooling their energy in prayer, educational and charitable work. Visiting in the 1970s, Mother Teresa influenced many of the lives of people from across the county.
Fey Bone set up a charity shop called ‘Teresa’s Boutique’ in Cobham, one of the first shops of its kind (see pictured). Susie, her daughter, reflects – “My mother worked tirelessly with Mother Teresa in India…all was given without limitations.”
When setting up her home in Southall, London, Mother Teresa needed an altar and tabernacle for the small chapel, which St Augustine’s Care Home in Addlestone kindly donated. Sister Isabel describes her visit:
“We had a little chat there together, the whole community. She admired the work that we do, and we admired the wonderful work she was doing.”
Joan Osborne from Addlestone was the Co-Workers National Chairman:
“I told her about building our church, and asked for her prayers. She said she would pray for us, and with a big smile she added: “But there is no need! You will get a church. God is never outdone for generosity. You gave him a tabernacle. He will give you a church.”
Because I had the tremendous privilege of getting to know Mother Teresa, I’ve been asked to tell you some little personal stories.
I first met Mother in person in Westminster Central Hall, at the huge gathering of the Co-Workers from all over England. Fey, who was then Chairman for Surrey – a post she held for many years – was babysitting so that her daughter could come to that meeting, so she asked me to represent her. It was a lovely surprise when, after I was introduced to Mother, I was given the job of introducing her to all the Surrey Co-Workers (I think about 30 of us were allowed to go there). It was wonderful to be so close to her as she greeted each one, and to see the love shining from her face, and the happiness she gave to each person.
Some years later Margaret asked me if I would be willing to become the National Chairman for the UK, if Mother approved the appointment. I didn’t really think she would approve, but it was very nice to go and meet her again.
Heather took me to the convent in Southall (the same one to which our Sisters at St Augustine’s Convent in Simplemarsh Road had given an altar and tabernacle when they had refurbished their chapel). Mother took great delight in showing us these in the tiny chapel, which was the front room of the house. After a few minutes of prayer, we went out into the hall, and Mother thanked us for coming, and me for taking on this work. I had expected an interview (and probably to be turned down) so I was standing there, possibly with my mouth open. She asked me what was the matter, and I said that I didn’t know that she had accepted me for the job, and did she really want me?
She looked back into the chapel, and smiling, held out her hand towards the altar and said “Of course I want you, and doubly so since you come from Addlestone.”
On later visits I told her about building our Church, and asked for her prayers. She said she would pray for us, and with a big smile she added: “But there is no need! You will get a church. God is never outdone for generosity. You gave him a tabernacle. He will give you a church.”
So it is very appropriate that we should give our thanks to him here today, in the church he gave us just for such a purpose…