A native of Portland, Maine and the seventh of 10 children, Susan Conroy was a student at Dartmouth College when she decided to travel to India to help out in the orphanages and homes for the dying. After reading about Mother Teresa and her work in Calcutta in a series of books her mother had given her, Susan was inspired. She made her first trip to Calcutta in 1986. “Nothing I ever witnessed in my upbringing had prepared me for the poverty of Calcutta. I remember having to walk in the gutters because there were so many people actually sleeping and living in the streets.” Susan’s sense of humor was an asset in India. “I’m not like St. Francis of Assisi; I don’t like bugs, and in India there are lots of cockroaches and lizards. Of course, when the other volunteers I worked with pointed out that the lizards ate the cockroaches, I grew to appreciate the lizards,” she joked.
When Susan first met Mother Teresa, she said it was extraordinary to be with her on “her turf”. When Mother Teresa made visits to the United States, bodyguards accompanied her, but in India people could kneel beside her and hold her hand. Susan said she had never seen someone so humble.
During that time spent with Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity, Susan found joy in working in the orphanage and the Home for the Dying. In the orphanage, she fed the children, administered medicine, taught them English, and brightened their day through play. Susan also picked up dying men off the street and brought them back to the Home. “When I arrived in India, my only training was having hands, a heart, and joy in working with the orphans, the sick, and the dying,” she remarked. “In working with Mother Teresa, I saw how her humility, willingness, and love transformed the lives of others. From Mother Teresa I learned ‘Joy is half the gift you bring.’”
After coming home from that first summer in Calcutta, Susan said she experienced more of a culture shock returning to her own country than when she first arrived in India. She went on to finish her senior year at Dartmouth and received a degree in economics, but her experiences had changed her.
In 1987, at the request of Mother Teresa herself, Susan stayed in the Order’s convent in the South Bronx, NY. During that visit, Susan came to know St. Therese of Lisieux, “the greatest saint of modern times,” who has had as great an impact on Susan’s life as has Mother Teresa.
Before her death, Mother Teresa gave Susan permission to write a book about her experiences. Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanctity is Susan’s first book, followed by Praying in the Presence of our Lord with Mother Teresa.
Today, Susan travels around the country giving presentations on her experiences with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Susan has made numerous television appearances for local as well as worldwide audiences. She has hosted a mini-series on EWTN called “Speaking of Saints.”