Sister Prema, head of the Missionaries of Charity, visits Sisters and supporters here

Sister Mary Prema Pierick, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, is seen fourth from left in this photo with members of her community serving in Peoria after a Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral on July 17. Also pictured are Father Jeremy Freehill (left), Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and Father Alex Millar. (Provided photo/Christu Raj)

The rosary is a holy “weapon” that strengthens the Missionaries of Charity as they bring the love and compassion of God to the most neglected and unwanted, the head of the worldwide religious community founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata said in a visit to Peoria on July 17.

“When you saw Mother, you always would see her with the rosary in her hand,” said Sister Mary Prema Pierick, MC, who was elected superior general of the Missionaries of Charity in 2009 and is the second person to lead the order after Mother Teresa’s death in 1997.

Sister Prema

Speaking to members of her community and their supporters after a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sister Prema said the rosary “is our weapon because our life is spent in difficult places and Our Lady is the one who teaches us to love Jesus, to love souls, and to do the work together with Jesus for the souls.”

“We as Missionaries of Charity are present in the different places of the world always to look for those most neglected, most abandoned, and most unwanted,” she continued. “All of us know pain and sorrow. And for all of us, the rosary is a great strength and a great help to go forward in this dark time to be the light and the love of Jesus to all we meet.”


Sister Prema’s stop in Peoria came nearly 24 years after Mother Teresa’s historic visit to the city on Dec. 10, 1995. During that eight-hour stay, the then 85-year-old nun witnessed the renewal of vows of seven Missionaries of Charity from communities in the Midwest; spoke to about 1,000 people inside and outside of St. Mary’s Cathedral at the end of a Mass; and visited OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center to thank the staff for saving the life of one of her nuns.

The Missionaries of Charity have served in Peoria since establishing a convent on the cathedral block in 1992 at the invitation of Bishop John J. Myers.

Sister Prema thanked Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, for his welcome and support for the past 17 years, and also expressed gratitude to lay co-workers of the order and others present for helping in the continuing mission “to bring the love, compassion, and presence of God to the people in Peoria.”

“When I go back to the motherhouse (in Kolkata, India) and the tomb of Mother Teresa, I will remember you and recommend for Mother all of your intentions,” she pledged. “Please pray for me.”

Born in a farming community in Germany, she went to meet Mother Teresa in Berlin after reading the biography of the foundress, “Something Beautiful for God,” by Malcolm Muggeridge. She felt called to join her work and moved to India to join the Missionaries of Charity, taking the name “Prema,” which means “pure and holy love” in Sanskrit.

Sister Prema eventually became the regional superior of the institute for the Sisters in Europe. She returned to India to supervise those nearing final religious profession, and succeeded Sister Nirmala Joshi as superior general on March 24, 2009.


Bishop Jenky was celebrant of the July 17 Mass, and the homily was given by Father Jeremy Freehill, parochial vicar of St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island.

Father Freehill gave thanks to God for the presence of the Missionaries of Charity in the Diocese of Peoria and for the visit of Sister Prema.

“It is a great joy to have you here,” he said. Noting the desire of the Missionaries of Charity to more deeply realize and satisfy Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls, Father Freehill said that charism “is truly a marvelous gift of God that you each possess.” It is also a “tremendous responsibility,” he added, as they serve as “carriers of God’s love to the poor.”

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