Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle!
When I first “met” Donna-Marie during an online exchange in which we connected over our lives as mothers and writers, her first book, Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers, had just come out. Five more books, all of which affirm the vocation of motherhood, followed in quick succession. And finally, this month her much-anticipated book chronicling her decade-long friendship with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (a.k.a. Mother Teresa), Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship, will be available. Peace Garden Mama is delighted to have Donna as its December “Spotlight” guest!
Donna, it has been such a privilege to watch you over these last years flourishing as a writer/speaker/author. What factors prompted you to become a writer, and what dictated the subject matter on which you would focus?
Thank you very much, Roxane. It’s an honor to have this interview with you. Thanks for thinking of me. I really love your blog and like what you’re doing with it. May God bless you much in your endeavors!
To answer your question regarding what prompted me to become a writer, the only way to answer that is to say that God did! He made me who I am and because there are matters that surround me that need to be spoken about – for instance, the dignity of every human life – I need to speak up. I wrote much about life as I grew up, feeling passionate about sharing my views (the Church’s) in attempts to inspire others. When I married and became a mother, I wrote about motherhood. I would squeak out op-ed articles for the newspaper during naptime when I could, but I knew that my focus was to be on my family and I didn’t need to worry about expressing it in writing if time didn’t allow. I immersed myself in motherhood and all it entailed.
The subject matter was dictated by my life – what I lived, breathed, and believed in. Because of God’s grace and our Blessed Mother’s intercession, I was a prayerful and faithful person, wanting to do God’s will, and so I feel that God guided my hand.
You wrote one of your books while on bed rest while pregnant with one of your children. While you were writing that book, did you envision that it would someday be in book stores across the country and world? What does this particular title say about the waiting we must do, not only in our lives as mothers but in our lives in general?
Yes, actually several came out of that pregnancy, but I think you are referring to Prayerfully Expecting: A Nine Month Novena for Mothers To Be. As I wrote it, I did hope that it would be a book one day to give encouragement, hope and a prayerful pregnancy to expectant mothers everywhere. I had no idea of the outcome of that pregnancy and needed to hope against all hope and pray and trust that my baby would survive. I feel God gave me the words to help other mothers sojourn through their joyful pregnancies as well as challenging and even sorrowful ones.
While I didn’t know if my book would ever see the light of day, I left it in God’s hands and in a cardboard box actually (the paper manuscript that I scribbled out as I lay on complete bed rest) and later on when I got a computer, on a floppy disc to pursue publishing when the time was right and my children were older.
As you know, Roxane, my daughter, Mary-Catherine survived that pregnancy, thank God, and is now eighteen years old! Blessed Mother Teresa prayed for me as well as many others, for which I am deeply grateful.
What about waiting, you ask? Life is all about waiting, isn’t it? Waiting and trusting and loving with all our hearts. God is in control, not us. We need to exercise a little patience, don’t we?
What is the hardest thing about being an author of religious works? Do you feel confined in any way, especially as you make your way out into the secular world?
I don’t feel any specific challenges or confinement being an author of religious works. I love what I do and I never worry about the secular world in terms of being in the way of what I do. I bring my faith into the streets throughout my daily life. So, I am not concerned about the contradictions. As Christians, and Catholics, we must strive to be a light to others in this darkened world, seemingly depleted in hope. We have to bring hope and prayer to others. This reminds me of my flight home from Rome recently when the plane started rocking violently through turbulent skies and everyone was frightened and some were crying. God allowed me to be a comfort to those around me and we prayed together. I actually taught them how to pray! It was amazing and God was praised! I plan to write about the experience sometime soon.
What have been some wonderful surprises about the life of an author/writer?
I suppose some of the surprises are that so many people know all about me! It surprises me many times when out at book-signings, giving retreats and events. Someone will come up to me and proceed to tell me all about myself! Things they have read in the news, heard on the radio or seen on TV, but for some reason, it always used to surprise me. I guess I am getting more used to it now.
Another surprise is something that happens at every book-signing and event starting with the very first. Many people who come to meet me have a story to tell and they all feel perfectly content with sharing it with me and asking for my prayers. This is a huge part of the ministry that God has started in my life. I am very happy that they all feel comfortable and also very happy to hold them in my heart and keep them in my prayers.
I really want to zero in on your newest book. Can you share with readers briefly how you came to know Mother Teresa? What new aspects of this remarkable woman have you been able to uncover here that have not previously been addressed in other books about her?
I met Mother Teresa more than twenty years ago in Washington DC while visiting my spiritual director, Fr. John A, Hardon S. J. I recount the details of my first meeting with Mother Teresa in my book, Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship. I was then blessed with a friendship that spanned a decade and was filled with letters and meetings with this holy woman. Of course, I don’t profess to uncover any unique news about this amazing “saint” of our time. In my book, I merely attempt to express in a simple weaving of words what it meant to me to know her and what I feel is her message to us.
If you could sum up what you learned from Mother Teresa in just a few words, what would they be? What is the main message she wished to tell the world?
We need to begin our love at home. Mother Teresa stressed so much that “love begins at home.” This very fact should alleviate our fears of not being able to run off to Calcutta to take care of God’s poor. We begin first at home and then reach out to our neighbors and community. The poor may not be someone near us who is starving for a piece of bread, but someone in our own family or neighborhood, starving for love. We need to ask God to enlarge our hearts so that we can be His love!
Your youngest child of five left the nest this year for college. How has that affected you, and was it worse/easier than you’d expected?
My daughter, Mary-Catherine just started college. Of course, it is always bittersweet when our “children” leave the nest. But for me, it is mostly bitter, since I don’t want to see them go! But, they must spread their wings and grow some more – it’s part of life. Our children are really only on loan to us to help mold and teach – steering them in the right direction.
It doesn’t get any easier when any child leaves the nest or leaves for college. I haven’t admitted to an empty nest yet, because in reality, two of my children who are in college actually still live at home. They are away for the college semesters. I’ll enjoy their company again very soon for a long Christmas break and summer will be around the corner. I am very connected to all of my children no matter how old they may be. My oldest will be thirty-three soon! Can you imagine that? I thought I was still thirty-three! Just kidding, but it’s hard for me to believe that Justin is turning thirty-three. That’s why I always let mothers in on a little secret, and that is that time speeds by and we really have to enjoy each moment with our families. Mothers will lament to me at times that the work in the home is never-ending or that the sibling rivalry is really getting to them. But, someday they’ll turn around and their kids will be grown and they’ll be wishing they were still in their arms. I say to them, “Please don’t wish those important moments and years away. Instead, relish in them!”
What is the best advice you can offer mothers who are still growing their families?
To BE THERE for them in every way. Pray for an extra dose of patience. Be patient with yourself too. And love them with all of your heart! It is far better to err on the side of love than not. Love is a decision, not a mere feeling. We have to DECIDE to be the best parents we can be to our children. Enjoy every moment.
Can you list each of your titles and give a one-sentence description of each so that readers can sort through which would be best suited to them or a special person in their life? Where can readers find your books?
Readers can find all of my books on my website. They can be ordered or pre-ordered, whatever the case may be, through my website: www.donnacooperoboyle.com. I offer free shipping on orders of ten books or more for study groups or for gift giving. I offer other deals as well on my website. Every copy ordered will be autographed.
~Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Company, 2005)
This is a hard cover compact 64-page book that can be tucked into a diaper bag or purse or kept within reach on a night stand or coffee table. It’s been so well received by moms and grandmoms, stepmothers, adoptive mothers and godmothers around the world that it’s in the seventh printing! It’s a Catholic bestseller. I’m told it has been life-changing!
~The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home (The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2006)
This soft cover 158-page book for mothers, adoptive mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and stepmothers is packed with inspiration and encouragement to get through the joyful and challenging times in the trenches with the family. Mothers’ groups have studied this book and some have expressed to me how it has changed their lives!
~Prayerfully Expecting: A Nine Month Novena for Mothers-To-Be (The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2007)
This book has a French fold cover and consists of 168 pages written while on complete bedrest during a pregnancy. It bears a foreword by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and one from Monsignor David Q. Liptak. This book is a pregnancy prayer journal to pray with and record thoughts and prayers on provided spaces throughout one’s pregnancy; turning the pregnancy into a living novena of prayer while one awaits the arrival of their baby.
~Catholic Saints Prayer Book (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Company, 2008)
This is a hard cover compact 80-page book that can be tucked away in a purse, briefcase or kept handy in the home or office to pick up for a bit of inspiration from the saints. It contains 32 saints with short bios and original prayers suitable for adults and children, especially Confirmation candidates.
~The Domestic Church: Room by Room: A Mother’s Study Guide (Circle Press, 2008)
I wrote this 254-page book as a study guide for Catholic Moms so that they could gather together, sharing insights and faith while focusing on all aspects of family life with the benefit of Church teaching at their fingertips! This book is being studied within groups all around the world and is very popular and in its second printing.
~Grace Café: Serving Up Recipes for Faithful Mothering (Circle Press, 2008)
This book, 219 pages in all, was released at the same time as The Domestic Church and is also meant to encourage and inspire women in their marvelous vocation of motherhood. It explores many aspects of family life in a conversational way while offering “recipes” for domestic happiness.
~Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship (Circle Press, 2009)
This 192-page soft cover book speaks about my friendship with Blessed Mother Teresa and attempts to encourage the readers to realize their own individual call to holiness in every walk of life. I originally wanted to have this book be a biography of my beloved friend, but as I wrote, and with the encouragement later on by the publisher, I revealed a lot of personal parts of my life and included snippets of letters and entire letters from Mother Teresa to me. It became part biography, part memoir.
~ Another title forthcoming with Alpha/Penguin
This book will focus on the many aspects of Catholicism and will be published in 2011.
Donna, thanks so much for sharing these thoughts with us. Do you have a prayer that you could leave with us as we head toward the holy days of Christmas – something to help us stay focused on the reason we celebrate in the first place?
Thank you very much, Roxane. It’s been such a pleasure!
Dear Lord, help us to be mindful of You always here in our midst. Help us to love all those You have entrusted to our care. Help us to open our eyes to see You in our families, in our neighbors, friends, and strangers. Help us to bring Your love to those who may not know You and who are starving for Your love. Help us to be Your light to others so that they may see You in us and be drawn to You dear Lord. Please bless us at this holy time of waiting during Advent. Teach us to pause and to pray throughout our busy days while preparing our hearts for your coming, Lord! Amen.