An English Catholic who corresponded with Mother Teresa has made an emotional visit to her former residence in Rome 20 years after their first meeting.
Norman Imms, 65, from Sunderland, first met the founder of the Missionaries of Charity in 1990 at the convent of San Gregorio. They had exchanged letters a year earlier after Mr Imms sought the nun’s help.
Between 1989 and 1997 Mr Imms received 32 letters from the future Blessed and he believes that he was cured of mental illness as a result of her prayers.
“She directed me through the spiritual wilderness to a place of eternal hope and love,” Mr Imms said.
During his recent trip he prayed in Mother Teresa’s former bedroom.
“It was very moving as I thought of my old, holy friend,” he said. “I left a long petition for people back home and the poorest of the poor worldwide.”
The Missionaries of Charity organised Mr Imms’s visit and provided him with accommodation at the monastery next to San Gregorio. “The Sisters put me through my paces, with Mass, the rosary and Adoration,” he said. “I think I was spiritually reinvigorated as I was back in 1990 and beyond when Mother helped me.”
Mr Imms has made nine trips to India to deliver gifts to children at Shishu Bhavan, an orphanage in Calcutta run by Mother Teresa’s order.
On his most recent visit, Mr Imms delivered three “massive” suitcase of teddy bears, toys and clothes (including Sunderland football strips) to the Sisters.
“Every time I’ve been and come back I’ve shed a few tears,” he said after visiting the orphanage. “It’s hard to see children suffering. But we must try to ‘do small things with great love’. That’s what Mother used to say.”
Mr Imms suffered from severe mental illness throughout his childhood and into his adult life. At 27, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, manic depression and psychopathy and was unable to work again.
He saw Mother Teresa in a dream two years after her death in 1997. She told him that he was now healed.
Details of the “miracle” were sent to Mother Teresa’s postulator, but could not be submitted as part of her Cause because the Vatican only acknowledges physical miracles.
The Vatican did, however, accept the case as a strong “favour”.