Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is recognized by millions of people as the friendly face and soothing voice of ideal Catholic womanhood. Yet her frequent appearances on radio and television, many books, and dynamic speaking engagements have established her as a mainstay in the lives of anyone devoted to seeking to live according to strong Christian values, to improving their family relationships, and making a powerful impact on their communities. Her universal, compassionate and relatable approach has catapulted her into the mainstream media and the lives of all denominations of Christians, as well as those seeking a deeper relationship with God and a more fulfilling life. A best-selling and award-winning author, she was named one of the “Top Ten Most Fascinating Catholics” in 2009. Publishers Weekly recognized Donna-Marie’s first book Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers as a breakout top ten best-seller within the first week of its release.
“The absolute essence of my work is to inspire, to teach, to encourage, and to help others discover their God-given gifts,” says the Connecticut-based mother of five. Her ten year-long, close bond with Mother Teresa (detailed in her National Press Women award-winning book Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship) has imbued her with an approach that profoundly resonates with many dimensions of society, chiefly because of the attitude of service, humility and self-respect that she promotes in all of her work. “I am hardly a self-appointed leader who promises instant prosperity, perfect make-up or an easy way out,” she says with her trademark deadpan sense of humor. “I have never set myself up to be anything more than a work in progress. I’ll be the first to admit that my house will probably never be aesthetically correct and there may always be a few dirty dishes in my kitchen sink. But, I am not going to worry about it! I endeavor to help others see that they are a work in progress as well, and they shouldn’t be too hard on themselves though we all need to strive for holiness within the nitty-gritty details of our lives. Mother Teresa has taught us that, ‘Holiness is not the luxury of a few but a simple duty for you and me.’”
A single mother herself for many years, Donna-Marie lives and teaches the lessons passed down to her by her mentor Mother Teresa: a simple doctrine of love, kindness, non-judgment and support for those who need help, encouragement, affirmation and healing. “Calcutta is all over the world for those who have eyes to see,” she asserts. “We don’t have to traipse off to Calcutta to find the poor or those who need our help. They are right here in our own neighborhoods and communities—they are right within our own homes!” Donna-Marie’s conviction that nothing should stand in the way of our commitment to one another or false ideas about the meaning of social class, wealth or fame also rings true. “Another kind of poverty exists in our affluent areas,” she says. “People are starving for love! They might look all put together but inside they are crying—they are starving for the tenderness and warmth of a human touch. We must find Calcutta in our own midst and reach out to those who are in need. As Mother Teresa was famous for saying, ‘Love begins at home.’ I believe we should begin there and if we are called to broaden our reach, we need to do so. Calcutta is right here, right now. Let’s not miss the opportunity to help transform lives with God’s grace.”
This fearless woman’s down-home message is crystal clear, especially when it comes to women and the demands for perfection they face, in the workplace, at home, even in the parish. “What the heck is a ‘size zero’ anyway? There is no such thing as a size zero!” she exclaims. “Women should not be literally killing themselves trying to achieve some kind of unobtainable level of perfection, chasing after an airbrushed or impossible image. It will not bring them happiness!” The counsel she brings to women’s groups and through her media appearances is centered on countering the barrage of crazy mixed messages aimed at women, which dictate to them that they should be more like a man to get ahead in the world. “Women will become healed of their inner wounds and confusion about their identities if they stop to assess their God-given gifts and special nature and pray” she advises. “Pressure from a culture which undermines a woman’s expression of femininity should have no place in a real woman’s life.”
In all of her work, Donna-Marie emphasizes the importance of every single woman as a spiritual mother, whether they have biological children and traditional family units, or not. “We all have been given gifts from God to serve others. We all, in a sense, “mother” others. That is the great God-given gift of womanhood, in every stage, phase or path in life,” she concludes.
Her view on prayer may have some traditionalists shaken up, but Donna-Marie’s way is changing the lives who have lost touch with who they are and who they are called to be. “People can get intimidated and scared to begin or re-enter that vital prayer relationship with God because of ‘holier-than-thou messages they are sensing,'” says Donna-Marie. “I say: start right now, wherever you are! It’s never too late to start praying and developing a loving relationship with your Creator. Speak from your heart and you will be heard. God always listens.” Her take on suffering and how we can allow it to heal us rather than make us bitter is also a huge part of her work, and both fascinates and changes those who read her books. “Suffering is part of life. We all encounter it in a variety of ways. We cannot come to terms with suffering in our life until we learn to surrender our lives fully and wholeheartedly to God,” she states.
Growing up in a large, close-knit Catholic family, Donna-Marie rolled up her sleeves from a young age, helping with the care of the animals on her small family farm, even delivering fresh chicken eggs on horseback. “We weren’t well off and we struggled financially,” she recalls. “My parents were hard workers. I saw two brothers go off to the Vietnam War and heartily counted my blessings when they both came back alive. I am all too familiar with the ways of the world, our darkened culture and the importance of committing to raising one’s children in faith so they can navigate their way on the straight path, protecting them from the dangers of the world.”
Perhaps a telling example of Donna-Marie’s heart and vocation is expressed in a certain true story she holds dear. “I was reaching out to a frightened young woman on a plane from Rome, Italy to the New York when we were going through turbulence,” she recalls. “An elderly man who was seated a few rows back leaned toward me and asked how I did that. He seemed surprised that one would reach out to a complete stranger that way. I replied, ‘I guess God has put a lot of love in my heart. I like to help people.’ It was the only way I could explain it at that moment. The man seemed visibly impacted by that simple statement and that gesture of love. Love is powerful. My strong belief is that God works through every situation, allowing us to be His humble instrument of love and peace. To be fully realized and exceptional as people, we need to let Him do so. I believe that every situation—both joyful and challenging, presents a marvelous opportunity for God’s grace to come through. It all depends upon our responses to the situations. If we respond selflessly and with love, amazing things can happen—miracles occur before our eyes. And they do.”
In addition to her vocation as a mother, Donna-Marie has been a Catechist for over twenty-five years at her parish and an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharistic to the sick and to her parish. Donna-Marie was invited by Cardinal Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity to participate in an International Congress for women at the Vatican to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem: On the Dignity and Vocation of Women penned by Pope John Paul II. Following in the footsteps of Mother Teresa, Donna-Marie founded a branch of the lay Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s Order) and is passionate about encouraging others to follow in Mother Teresa’s footsteps, caring for the poorest of the poor. Donna-Marie also created and heads “Friends of Veronica,” an outreach to the seniors, the sick, and the lonely in nursing homes and hospitals.
Donna-Marie Cooper O’ Boyle is a frequent guest on EWTN television and radio. She is also the TV host of EWTN’s “Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms” and “Catholic Mom’s Café” and “Feeding Your Family’s Soul,” as well as a regular contributor to a wide range of newspapers, magazines, TV and online media outlets worldwide, interviewing everyone from Cardinals and fashion moguls to movie stars. Aside from her work as a writer and speaker, Donna-Marie is firmly grounded in reality. Her daily interests and commitments include extensive organic gardening, photography, hiking, and healthy cooking. She also has her hand in creative design of all kinds.