“And Mother said, ‘Oh Father, don’t worry,’ and he said she fished around in her pocket of her sari and brought out this cheese, this big beautiful cheese wound in a cloth and passed it around. He said it was the best cheese ever,” McCabe said, laughing.
That incident, McCabe said, is a perfect snapshot of the surrender Mother Teresa had to the will of God in every moment of her life.
“Oh, the car (broke down)? Well it’s ok, help will come, and we will pray,” McCabe said.
During her visits, one thing that impressed Fr. Woody so much about Mother Teresa were her hands.
“She was very humble, extremely humble, very serious, and boy when you shook her hand you knew you were shaking a hand! That woman’s grip!” McCabe said. “I mean, little tiny lady, with the hands of a large person! It’s a worker’s hand.”
Fr. Woody was able to snap some close-up photos of Mother Teresa’s hands during her visit, who likely reluctantly obliged, as she didn’t like having her picture taken.
“He just said, ‘Look at those hands! Those are the hands of a worker! Then he would say, ‘Christ didn’t want any lazy people, and we have to follow her, we have to work.’”
And work he did.
In the spirit of Mother Teresa, Fr. Woody was renowned for his unquestioning generosity when helping people in need. In the record-settingly horrible Denver winter of 1982, Fr. Woody opened up the Church every night to let the homeless come inside to sleep.
“You’d hear the phone ring and you’d pick it up and hear: ‘Yeah, uh, Fr. Woody here, bring me some blankets and pillows,’ and then he’d hang up and call the next person,” McCabe said.
“And everybody just did it!” she said. “You’d get that call and you stop whatever you’re doing and do it.”
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One time Fr. Woody called McCabe as she was taking exams, and asked for soup. When McCabe told him she was busy studying, Father’s reply was: “There are hungry people down here. Bring what you got.”
When Fr. Woody passed away very suddenly in 1991 at the age of 68, it was a painful shock to the Catholic community in Denver. Heartbroken, McCabe looked up where Mother Teresa was staying at the time, which was a hospital in California, and wrote out a 5-6 page letter to inform her of his passing.
“I got a letter back from her and she said, ‘I am so sorry to hear in Denver of the loss of the beloved Fr. Woody. But he’s with God now, he would not want you to be sorrowful.’”
“So she had about 4 handwritten sentences, but really what she said was stop blubbering and pick up the work. Do the work. It really got my attention because it was like: stop. There are people that need to be fed.”
Fr. Woody’s legacy lives on through a program called “Father Woody’s Service Projects” at Regis University in Denver, of which McCabe is the director. Among their projects are delivering meals to the poor and elderly, just as did Fr. Woody, and throwing Christmas parties for the poor every year.
The legacy of both Fr. Woody and Mother Teresa has been so lasting, McCabe said, because of their willingness to lead by example and practice what they preached, and because they were simple and practical in their mission.