Sitting in a car with Mother Teresa,12-year-old Saskia Kremer decided that she wanted to be a nun. Talking to Ryan Tubridy, Saskia described Mother Teresa as, "very, very intense – personally present to whoever she would meet". And her attention would be the same, whether that person was the president or the shopkeeper.
Saskia's mother was doing voluntary work with the missionaries of charity where she worked in soup kitchens and cared for the homeless. One fateful year, she and her family were chosen to drive Mother Teresa from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. That car journey made a huge impact on Saskia's life.
"I remember Mother Teresa looking at me very intensely and she said 'you will be one of ours' and as a 12-year-old, seeing someone you're really intrigued by, you just want to jump in and say 'let's do it', you don't have any clue about the consequences."
She continued: "I think I was so much intrigued by her presence and her gift, or her service to the poorest, that at that moment I think it hit home in me that that was something I would like to do with my life."
However, despite Saskia's enthusiasm, Mother Teresa insisted that she finish her education before becoming a nun, even writing a note to the then 16-year-old, instructing her to stay in school.
Eventually, Saskia’s wish was granted, and having graduated school she became a missionary. Her first posting as a fully-fledged Missionary of Charity was to Zagreb in Croatia, just after the Bosnian-Serb war. During this, as Ryan put it, "desperate, dark time in European history," what could nuns do for people in the war-torn region?
"How are you useful in a situation where someone can just cry and tell their story? The thing you can be useful [for] is just listening and sit next to them. And I didn’t even speak Croatian… but in those kind of distressed situations, you don’t need many words."
It was while she was stationed in Rome that Saskia decided to change orders. She did this, she told Ryan, because, although she loved the Missionaries and the work she did with them, she was missing an intellectual challenge. So she joined a young congregation in France that were specifically orientated toward philosophical and theological studies. And then, at around age 30, she was in the Philippines when, she says, she hit rock bottom. Physically, Ryan wondered, or emotionally or mentally?
"I would say on all levels. I felt completely depleted because I had given so much, but I had forgotten to truly resource myself along the way."
Although she was part of a congregation, Saskia felt that she didn’t know where her roots were anymore. She had travelled the whole world, but she didn’t know where she had no clue where she was coming from. So she moved back to Holland. Ryan asked her what she found when she got back. The answer? "Who I truly was."
When she left the congregation, Saskia didn’t find it easy to settle back into the lay world. "You come back and the world has basically changed." She lives in Ireland now, where she has set up a business, something she had to do:
"Recruiters had said to me, well, you know, with your background, with your history, with your studies… there’s no job we can find you."
Her business started with helping people with disabilities or mental health issues who needed to go back into the workplace. Saskia worked with employers to ensure that "the job description is fitting them and not they needing to fit a job description".
Her service then evolved into what sounds like a nurturing service, helping business owners who are at one level, but unable to find what Saskia calls the bandwidth to get to the next level within their area. Stress is a big problem she encounters in a lot of business owners.
"Stress just builds up. And it’s a muscle that slowly and slowly tightens and we’re not even aware of it."
Saskia’s website is https://saskiakremer.eu/ and you can hear Ryan’s full interview with Saskia above.