At just nineteen, Mary Johnson, bespectacled, freckled and very intelligent, said goodbye to family and friends in Texas and headed for her new life in South Bronx as an aspirant to the Missionaries of Charity. At this “boot camp” for the aspiring MCs, Mary and her fellow eleven aspirants followed a strict schedule of prayer and instruction designed to instill discipline, humility and obedience. Despite Mother Teresa’s reminder that each of them had a personal call from God, many of the aspirants gave up and left for home. Mary struggled with the hard work and loneliness, but as she sincerely desired to live a life of purpose and service to others, she persevered and was sent to Rome for postulancy.
Postulant, then novice, then professed nun – Mary, now known as Sister Donata – had assignments all over the world from Rome to Canada to the United States. Her best days were in direct service to the poorest of the poor, the special charge of the Missionaries of Charity, but as she gained experience and knowledge she also taught and supervised her fellow sisters. Sister Donata was even given a special assignment to accompany Mother Teresa on a quick visit to Sweden. The story of Sister Donata sharing a pink bedroom with Mother Teresa in the home of a Lutheran pastor is a treasure.
Yet Sister Donata, despite her outward success, was neither happy nor content as an MC. She struggled with her vows of obedience and chastity. Her longing for human touch led her to form “particular friendships” with several nuns and a physical relationship with a priest. She also found much to criticize in the MC organization: incompetent supervisors, power-hungry nuns, and petty squabbles over turf. Even Mother Teresa was not immune from her critical gaze, and as the years passed, Sister Donata regretted ever having been inspired by the magazine cover of Mother Teresa.
An Unquenchable Thirst, by Mary Johnson, is the fascinating memoir of one young woman’s search for love and meaning as a Missionary of Charity.