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Martha Capeta

Somewhere in the basement of the FBI or Secret Service, I know there is a file on me.


During my first ten years of working at Walsh, I spent more time interacting with FBI and Secret Service agents then I did my fellow Walsh co-workers!

Why, you ask? It was during my time in the Communications Office that Walsh welcomed Mother Teresa in 1982, Willy Brandt in 1983, Coretta Scott King in 1986, Adolfo Perez Esquival in 1986 and Elie Wiesel in 1987. I kept waiting for the Pope to make an appearance, but it just didn't happen during my tenure.

I was fortunate to work at Walsh for 19 years. I'm also a proud graduate of the class of 1986 and the mother of two alumni, Marilee and Michael.

There are so many Walsh memories…but it was Mother Teresa's visit that most impacted my life. As the secretary in the Development and Communications Office, it was part of my job to help out when dignitaries came to campus. My job was to handle the details such as invites, tickets, guest arrangements, etc. I worked with Mary Lou Swanson who was Brother Francis secretary.

At the invitation of Walsh's President, Brother Francis Blouin, Mother Teresa spent one day in North Canton and spoke to a crowd of 2,000 in the Walsh gymnasium on June 23, 1982. It was a short visit, but her presence left a lasting impression on all that met or heard her speak.

The memory from that day that stands out the most in my mind was when Mary Lou and I had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa. It was early morning just before her press conference. She was resting and waiting in the Cavalier Lounge before being escorted to the large group of media professionals waiting to meet her. We expected the room to be packed with people, but when Mary Lou and I were brought into the Lounge, we were surprised to find she was waiting in the room with only a small group of people. No fan fare. No entourage. That was the way her whole visit would go, she simply did not want anyone to make a fuss over her.

My first impression was that she was physically tiny. And there was a sense of quiet around her. I don't mean her voice either - it was just that her whole personality exuded peace and calm. You knew immediately that you were in the presence of someone special. I felt the tears well up in my eyes just looking at her.

When we were introduced, she reached out to hold our hands. It was overwhelming. Though we were only in her presence for a short time, her influence on my life has been profound. Since that morning, I have felt a sense of quiet and peace in my life.

Mother Teresa had very few requests for her visit. Maybe that's why this one stands out in my mind. She insisted that we arrange for handicapped seating in the front of the gym. While it would be unheard of to plan an event now that was not handicapped accessible, in the 1980's this was unusual and not something we were used to arranging.

I remember that the gym was so hot that day with about 2,000 in one arena. There was no air conditioning in the gym. But people waited patiently, fanning themselves as they sat on the old hard, bleachers for hours. Before she went up to speak, Mother Teresa was asked if she would like a glass of ice water on the podium. She smiled a little and said "I don't drink ice water in India. Why would I need it here?" The spellbound audience listened intently to her 40 minute presentation and we never heard one single complaint. It was simply an incredible day.