Reprinted from Magnificat (www.magnificat.com)
Credible Witness: Servant of God Mother Mary Teresa Tallon
By Heather King
“What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people…capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life.” Porta Fidei 15
Servant of God Mother Mary Teresa Tallon (1867-1954) founded the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, a contemplative-missionary congregation that, among other activities, conducts door-to-door evangelization.
The sisters combine contemplative prayer life with missionary visitation. Their purpose is to reach those who have fallen away from the practice of the faith, or may be on the verge of doing so.
“These souls are dear to the Good Shepherd, who came to seek out and bring back the lost sheep,” notes the congregation’s website. “This is the New Evangelization called for by the Church!”
Tallon was born to Irish immigrant parents on May 6, 1867, near Utica, New York, the seventh of eight children. Her desire for religious life formed early. She entered the Holy Cross Sisters at South Bend, Indiana, at the age of nineteen and taught at Catholic schools for thirty-three years.
But her heart hungered for something else, something more. She felt a call toward lapsed, estranged, and uninstructed Catholics. She asked for and was granted approval to leave the Holy Cross Sisters. And on the Feast of the Assumption, 1920, she arrived in New York City to begin what would become her real work-“the cause,” as she called it: “the original vocation.”
Thus the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate came to be.
In administering the Congregation, Mother Foundress tirelessly met with associates and religious officials, traveled abroad, fundraised, maintained a wide-ranging correspondence, and established and directed a publishing arm of the community.
Though by all accounts she was unfailingly generous and kind to the poor, photographs of her during this period give the impression that she did not suffer fools gladly. She didn’t have time to. She was fifty-three when she embarked on her true mission, and ill for the last twenty years of her life.
The work continued: gathering Christ’s lost sheep into the fold, one by one, person to person, heart to heart; healing, as Christ did, by looking people in the eye and inviting them to something more; casting out the demons of family and social wounds by showing people a light-and inviting them to devote their lives to seeking its source.
In February 1954, Mother Tallon suffered a fall in her room that would precipitate a final month of agony. She thanked God for his graces, and left the congregation in his hands. She died on the evening of March 10, 1954, as the sisters finished praying the rosary around her bedside.
Today, Pope Francis’ directive-“Go out to the periphery” -is at the heart of the sisters’ apostolate. Their activities include visiting families for person-to-person evangelization and catechesis, helping the needy to obtain social service aid, and guiding and assisting immigrants. They visit hospitals, jails, and courts, promote praying the rosary in the home, offer religious education for children and adults, and “rescue boys and girls from moral danger.”
In 2013, Mother Tallon was declared a Servant of God, opening the way for her cause for canonization. Her remains are located at the motherhouse chapel in Monroe, New York.