An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life

An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life

by Mary Johnson
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An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life by Mary Johnson


An unforgettable spiritual autobiography about a search for meaning that begins alongside one of the great religious icons of our time and ends with a return to the secular world

At seventeen, Mary Johnson saw Mother Teresa’s face on the cover of Time and experienced her calling. Eighteen months later, she entered a convent in the South Bronx to begin her religious training. Not without difficulty, this bright, independent-minded Texas teenager eventually adapted to the sisters’ austere life of poverty and devotion, and in time became close to Mother Teresa herself.

Still, beneath the white and blue sari beat the heart of an ordinary young woman facing the struggles we all share—the desire for love and connection, meaning and identity. During her twenty years with the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Donata, as she was known, grappled with her faith, her sexuality, the politics of the order, and her complicated relationship with Mother Teresa. Eventually, she left the church to find her own path—one that led to love and herself.

Provocative, profound, and emotionally charged, An Unquenchable Thirst presents a rare, privileged view of  Mother Teresa. At the same time, it is a unique and magnificent memoir of self-discovery.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385527477
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/13/2011
Pages: 544
Product dimensions: 6.42(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.46(d)

About the Author

For twenty years, as Sister Donata, Mary Johnson was a Missionary of Charity, a nun in Mother Teresa’s order, until she left in 1997. A respected teacher and public speaker, she has been named a Fellow of the MacDowell Colony and is on the board of A Room of Her Own Foundation. She lives in New Hampshire.

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Unquenchable Thirst 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
PoetryDoc More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that memoir is not my thing. Most of the time I find them to be a bit self-serving and uninspiring. Not so with this book. I don't usually write these reviews, either, but I really felt like I had to after seeing some of the comments by people complaining about the book being "too graphic." Nonsense. If you want to see Mother Teresa and her nuns walking on water and singing Kumbaya, then go ahead and hold onto your fantasies about rainbows and unicorns. If you want to see a vivid portrait of an idealistic young woman who matures into a real flesh-and-blood woman with doubts, hopes, and expectations, and does so while serving with one of the world's great mythical holy women, then read this book. This is an engaging read. I learned a lot about what it is like to live in the company of only women and what it is like to love with your whole being. I wanted to say that I couldn't put it down, but the fact is that I could for good reason. I read, I reflected, I picked it up again, and read some more. There's no whitewashing here, but there is no bashing. To the naysayers, I say if you don't think this was a spiritual account of a woman's bright light and dark night of the soul, and if you can't see some of your own doubts and struggles, you are looking at a book to tell you what YOU want to know, rather than what is the truth. Great read. Courageous and gutsy. I'd love to know about the next chapter in this woman's life.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Mary Johnson, the 17 year-old daughter of religious Catholic parents, begins her story by describing a turning point in her life when her parents were announcing what they were planning for their lives after school. As much as those ideas of study, work, and marriage attracted her, she knew that she had a call from God to live her life in service to Him and only Him! Soon after, she saw a picture of Mother Teresa on the cover of Time magazine and read the article about the Missionary of Charity nuns. She decided the message in that article was a precise answer to her divine call! The remainder of this memoir about Mary or Sister Donata's twenty years life as a Missionary of Charity is a mind-boggling read. As Mary lives the course of her preparation for final vows, the reader is exposed to a painstaking battle of the soul interspersed with some moments of deep peace, understanding, and union with God. What is most evident, however, is the harshness and downright meanness of those in authority who are supposed to be bringing these novices and so on closer to God and service. In fact, this segment is torture to read at times, defying logic, compassion, and every other positive Christian virtue one can contemplate. Later it turns out when Sister Donata actually reads the Constitution of the Order that Mother Teresa wanted more kindness toward the Sisters but felt powerless to change the abuse she knew was occurring. Years pass and Sister Donata is sent to many places in America, Italy, and Canada. Temptations appear after some mental satisfaction in doing academic work and some work important as the assistant of Mother Teresa. The temptation toward a fellow nun and a priest yields a world of conflict, guilt, and so on, followed by a scandal at one of the schools with ramifications going all the way to Cardinal Ratzinger, the present Pope of the Catholic Church. Finally, Mary describes how she makes her decision to change her life's call and how she spends years resolving the residual effects of all those years. This is a moving, comprehensive, scathingly honest memoir about the heights and depths, heaven and hell, of the spiritual life of a notable community of nuns modeled after the saint-like figure, Mother Teresa! Read it, not to judge, but to know honesty and truth prevail, divine and otherwise! Astonishing book!
wcorrig1 More than 1 year ago
This was a very compelling tale of one person's journey thru the sisterhood. I am sure that any one would find it fascinating. It came to a forgone conclusion, otherwise no book would have been written, but it shows how even in the best of intentioned professions, certain people in charge can use ideas and rules to twist the inteneded purpose. I found it quite a revelation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book fascinating !
CristyZR More than 1 year ago
Just finished this book. It is a rare personal narration of someone that has actually lived in a convent as a very human nun (aren't they all human??) I found it 100% sincere and I couldn't think differently than Mary Johnson when she lets us see how a religious order can really be very political with its members hunting power, losing sight of the very reason they were founded on. I had never read anything that portrayed Mother Teresa like a real human being, beautiful and too good inside but always a human being. VERY interesting book!
wordz More than 1 year ago
I didn't want to put this book down, and even when I did I couldn't stop thinking about it. Even now, two days after finishing it, I'm still processing the events and the lessons beyond. Though the content may be different, this is every human's story of youthful naïveté, growth, disillusionment, and acceptance. It is beautifully written, with the writer showing great courage in revealing the very personal experiences she had while in the convent. If you like a book with substance and depth, this is it.
Cauliflower More than 1 year ago
Mary Johnson has done an amazing job of bringing the reader into her life at that time. The reader is able to feel what she went through, all the doubt, fear, guilt, sadness, longing, and so much more. I highly recommend this book for those who not only want to see what life is like for a nun in the Missionary of Charity organization, but also to see what goes through the minds of, dare I say, all believers. I greatly anticipate Johnson's next book, her life since leaving the order.
monalisaa52 More than 1 year ago
This book was a journey. I felt as if I were living the journey as I was reading. Whether you agree with the author or not, the trip along the way is well worth it!
Aleksa3 More than 1 year ago
Being Catholic and being taught by nuns in school, I found this a must read. It's easier now to understand why more women/men don't go into religious service. I was actually very afraid of the nuns who taught me. The rules they all had/have to live by are against human nature and I can better undstand why they acted as they did. I admit I would rather the sexual encounters Sr. Donata lived through be shortened, however, I guess she had her reasons. I'm glad she's happy now and would definitely recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Religious hypocrisy and its sadism are challenged, especially when inhumanity dresses up as holy care-giving! How grueling for Johnson and the other innocent, earnest young women to become enmeshed in a crucifixion-fixated RC religious culture. How hard-won is Johnson's autonomy! When she began to honor both her questions and her answers, she found a way to live that included happiness. As author Karen Armstrong suffered years earlier, in a convent where sadistic control was the order of the day, Johnson also labored, day by day, until she gave birth to her beautiful self! An amazing story, beautifully written! Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The_Paperback_Pursuer More than 1 year ago
Description: An Unquenchable Thirst is the autobiography of Mary Johnson, a woman in search of God, love, and her true-self under the influence of Mother Theresa's teachings. Review: I have to admit, I wasn't expecting this book to affect me so much, but Mary's story was really moving and genuine. The level of detail was astonishing, Mary's feelings and surroundings adding to an already intense journey for human understanding; her hopes, fears, and secrets permeating every page. I have never really appreciated the idea of convents or nuns, but I completely understand devotion, and when I consider the term, Mother Teresa does come to mind. I knew some basic information about her life, but had not considered her earthly contributions as of late, however, An Unquenchable Thirst sketched a life portrait that I had not expected. Not only does Mary Johnson recount Mother Teresa's graces, but also her flaws and failures - humanizing a woman who is so often only described as saintly. I love when a book, especially one detailing such a prominent figure, makes history relatable and enjoyable. No one wants to read about absolute perfection - an attribute the Earth knows not. Overall, I rather enjoyed Mary's story, minus a few grammatical/punctuation errors, and I am glad that her life ended up the way it did, (no spoilers). Recommended for open-minded readers who would like to know more about Mother Teresa and her followers... or those who want a look into the little-known and misunderstood lives of nuns/missionaries and those who choose to devote themselves to GOD. Rating: On the Run (4/5) *** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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The book is overwritten, much too wordy. Could have done with some sharp editing. Starts out well but bogs down in the middle.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never could finished reading this but I was shocked at the graphic and detailed content - the first part of the bpook is fine but when she starts telling about her lesbian sexual exploits (while still a nun) it goes overboard for me. I certainly did not expect that in a book whose cover claims it is about working with Mother Teresa and the MC's. This and then her elicit affair with a priest is just too much info. I cannot understand why she continued to be a nun for so many years if she wanted a sexual life? She had a choice but she wanted both (being a nun and having sex with both men and women apparently) with no consequences. I also found it distrubing that she practically accuses another sister of sexually attacking her and yet would go back to her for more.
Madison-L More than 1 year ago
As with any institution, once you are live, study, work within, your rose colored glasses are shed and reality sinks in. We all are human, everyone is flawed; Sadly Ms. Johnson held Mother Teresa in such high esteem she could not, or failed to realize Mother could actually be human. A shame actually, for if she would have been able to accept Mother Teresa for the person she was, the twenty years Sr. Donata, aka Ms. Johnson, lived as a Missionary of Charity sister could have been years of spiritual growth and personal maturity. What I find disturbing about this book is the graphic descriptive writing of Ms. Johnson's sexual encounters while a nun. I do not believe it necessary to be so explicit. I do not see why she felt compelled to be so graphic when her title states: following Mother Teresa in search of love, service and an authentic life; this story seems to be quite the opposite of those words. I don't believe Ms. Johnson's writing to be eloquent, moving or heartfelt; rather I believe Ms. Johnson, even at this age, is immature, vindictive and has unresolved issues.