Father Brian Kolodiejchuk is a Canadian priest and member of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers founded by Mother Teresa. He was the postulator for her cause for canonization and spent 17 years gathering evidence and data to have her declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. He is featured in the recent documentary Mother Teresa: No Greater Love, talking about his relationship with this incredible saint and his memories of her. I’m delighted to chat with Father Brian about his work and what he’s learned from Mother Teresa.
Pssst!!! Mother Teresa: No Greater Love is in theatres in Vancouver again for January 22 and 23!!! Grab your friends and be inspired by the story of this amazing saint on the big screen!
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TKM: What is your first memory of Mother Teresa?
Father Brian: I first met Mother Teresa in May 1977 in Rome. My sister had joined Mother Teresa and was about to enter the novitiate there. So my parents and I traveled from Winnipeg to see her for the first time with the sisters.
Mother Teresa was in Rome at this time as she was about to begin a group of contemplative brothers. Because my parents and I would pray with the sisters and I would do the first reading at Mass, Mother Teresa knew that I was the brother of one of her sisters. At the opening ceremony of the brothers, when it was time to leave, my parents said goodbye to Mother Teresa and then it was my turn.
I was totally shocked when Mother Teresa invited me to join the brothers; I was silent; I didn’t say anything in response. Only the next morning after Mass did I approach her to ask what she meant. Typically, as I learned later, she wanted me to join right then and there. I had to return to Winnipeg for an operation, but I was able to return a few months later in September.
After some years I left the brothers and shortly after my departure from the brothers I was one of the founding members of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers.
TKM: What is involved in being a postulator for a saint’s canonization?
Father Brian: The postulator is the lead person in beginning and then moving the canonization process along.
There is a first phase that took place in Calcutta, India. During that time (two years), 35,000 pages of information were gathered. This was presented to the Vatican and from this information a study of 5,000 pages was made to present the case for Mother Teresa’s holiness, that she met the criteria for canonization in the Church. This process involved the presentation of two miracles, one for beatification (which happened in 2003) and another one occurring after the beatification for canonization (2016).
So from start to finish it took 17 years for Mother Teresa to be declared a saint in the Catholic Church. It was a big privilege and a responsibility to be the postulator. Thankfully, I had the help of a very capable team.
TKM: What has been a highlight of being a Missionaries of Charity Father?
Father Brian: A very special part of being an MC priest is the opportunity to combine two wonderful vocations: to serve the poorest of the poor as a Missionary of Charity, and to do it as a priest. I have to add that being an MC Father gave me the wonderful gift of knowing Mother Teresa and seeing holiness up close.
TKM: What advice would you offer to a young man discerning a call to the priesthood?
Father Brian: I think it would be very helpful to read the lives of holy priests who have gone before us and to search out exemplary priests who are serving now.
If a young man is more inclined to diocesan priesthood, then get involved in a flourishing parish. If one is more inclined to religious life, then see which Institute you may be attracted to. If one might be interested in following Mother Teresa, then see if there is a Sisters’ community nearby and begin serving. This will allow the man to experience the charism in action.
Mother Teresa would say to any young man considering the priesthood that he seek to be a holy priest.
TKM: How do you think moms can encourage our children to consider religious vocations?
Father Brian: A religious or priestly vocation often arises in a good Catholic family. Mothers, of course, have a unique and important role in raising good Catholic children. So mothers can encourage their children to lead a good Christian life, which is as we know very challenging in our culture. Mothers can also encourage their children to consider a possible vocation to religious or priestly life and ask God for the grace of granting such a vocation to at least one of their children.
I know a family in which 11 of the 12 children are consecrated to God in one form or other. A priestly or religious vocation is a pure gift for which we can ask God to grant our families.
TKM: You called Mother Teresa a “Christian hero.” What makes her a hero?
Father Brian: A hero is someone who does some heroic or exemplary deed. In our day, most heroes are sports figures, singers, or actors. But we Christians and Catholics also need our heroes, people we can look up to and be inspired by their heroic and exemplary life so we can follow in their footsteps.
In her lifetime, Mother Teresa was often voted by young people as the most admired woman in the world. Young people especially like to see people who are authentic, who walk the talk (as is often said). Along with St. John Paul II, Mother Teresa is a great modern hero for all Catholics, especially for young people.
She was a woman passionately in love with Jesus. As a young religious she made this resolution to love him as he’s never been loved before, which is a daring thing to say if you are taking it seriously. ~ Father Brian to the Catholic Register
TKM: What do you hope people will take from the new Mother Teresa movie?
Father Brian: I hope people will not just applaud the work of Mother Teresa and the Sisters, but also be inspired to ask themselves what they can do for others where God has placed them. Mother Teresa used to say that Calcutta is everywhere, even perhaps in our own families: my parents, my spouse, my siblings. Who needs some act of kindness or compassion, even such a seemingly small thing like a smile? Mother Teresa would emphasize the importance of doing small things with great love, ordinary things with extraordinary love.
TKM: For people who have never heard of Winnipeg, what would you say about your hometown?
Father Brian: I have many fond memories of Winnipeg, going to my parish church and to school. I liked winter, especially playing hockey in the back lane for hours on end. It certainly can get very cold (other Canadians don’t refer to Winnipeg as Winterpeg for nothing!), but still I prefer the cold to the heat. I am very proud to say that I am from Winnipeg.
TKM: Who is your favourite Canadian saint?
TKM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Father Brian: I would encourage people, especially children and young adults, to get to know Mother Teresa more. A good biography is Such a Vision of the Street by Eileen Egan. If there is a Sisters’ community nearby, then go and volunteer. As Mother Teresa used to say, we receive more than we give in serving the poor.