Mother Teresa, born in 1910 and passing away in 1997, was a Roman Catholic nun originally from the Republic of Macedonia, but she chose India as the primary focus of her service. As an Albanian Catholic nun and the visionary founder of the Missionaries of Charity, her life’s purpose was deeply rooted in serving the underprivileged, the sick, and the impoverished. She pursued this noble mission through the Missionaries of Charity, a dedicated congregation of Roman Catholic nuns headquartered in Kolkata, India. Mother Teresa’s unshakable commitment to alleviating the suffering of the less fortunate serves as a testament to her boundless compassion and stands as a lasting symbol of humanitarianism.
Mother Teresa Biography Age, Career, Family, Education, and More
Mother Teresa, born in Skopje during the time when it was part of the Ottoman Empire, embarked on a transformative journey when she was just 18 years old. She first made her way to Ireland and later to India, where she would spend the majority of her remarkable life. Her profound wisdom shines through her words as she declares, “Love cannot exist in isolation – it must be translated into action, and that action is service.”
The enduring legacy she crafted began with the establishment of the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation that grew to include more than 4,500 dedicated nuns across 133 countries as of 2012. Within this congregation, Mother Teresa instilled a deep sense of purpose and compassion, creating homes to offer comfort and care to individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis.
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Mother Teresa, originally named Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, had a name with special meanings. “Anjezë” translates to “Agnes” in Albanian, and “Gonxhe” symbolizes “flower bud.” She was born into an Albanian family on August 26, 1910. Her father, Nikola Bojaxhiu, worked as a construction contractor and trader, while her mother, Dranafile Bojaxhiu, came from a village near Gjakova.
Anjezë, the youngest child of Nikollë and Dranafile Bojaxhiu (Bernai), grew up in a deeply religious Catholic household. Her father was a passionate advocate for Albanian independence. Tragedy struck the family when Agnes was just eight years old; her father, Nikola, who had been involved in Albanian community politics in Ottoman North Macedonia, fell seriously ill and tragically passed away in 1919. This early loss had a profound impact on young Agnes and became a significant moment in her life.
Anjezë shared a deep bond with her mother, who was not only devoutly religious but also dedicated to charitable acts of kindness. It is likely from her mother that Agnes inherited her compassionate and giving nature.
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In 1928, Anjezë left her hometown of Skopje and embarked on a life-changing journey to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was located at the Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland. This Catholic institution was commonly known as the Sisters of Loreto. Her decision marked a pivotal moment in her life, as it meant saying goodbye to her mother and sister, with the possibility of never seeing them again. Upon entering the convent, she was given the name Sister Mary Teresa, in honor of the revered Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Meanwhile, her family continued to reside in Skopje until 1934 when they moved to Tirana, further separating her from her familial ties.
Call for Serving Humanity
Sent to Calcutta by her Sisterhood, Mother Teresa commenced her profound journey in the city. She fully committed to her faith and calling on May 24, 1931, when she took her initial religious vows. In honor of Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries, she chose the name Teresa for herself. Notably, as another nun had already chosen the name Thérèse, she decided on the Spanish variant, Teresa.
For the next approximately 15 years, Mother Teresa dedicated herself to teaching at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta, now known as Kolkata. While she found fulfillment as an educator, the overwhelming poverty engulfing the city increasingly troubled her compassionate heart. During her Final Profession of Vows on May 24, 1937, she wholeheartedly embraced a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, solidifying her unwavering commitment to her spiritual path.
In 1946, during a train journey to Darjeeling, Mother Teresa experienced a profound inner calling—a divine mandate to serve India’s impoverished in the name of Jesus. With unyielding determination, she embarked on this mission, and gradually, recognition and support began to pour in from various quarters.
Missionaries of Charity
A significant moment in Mother Teresa’s life occurred on September 10, 1946, an event she later referred to as “the call within the call.” During her annual retreat, she embarked on a train journey from Calcutta to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling. It was on this journey that her profound inner calling became unmistakably clear. She and her Missionaries of Charity were seized by a singular purpose: to provide unwavering care to those she described as “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people who have become a burden to society and are rejected by everyone.” Essentially, she dedicated herself to the most destitute and marginalized members of society, the poorest among the poor.
Step 1. Mother Teresa’s profound dedication to her mission led her to embrace Indian citizenship, symbolizing her unwavering commitment to serving the people of India. Before fully immersing herself in the challenging work ahead, she spent several months in Patna, where she underwent basic medical training at Holy Family Hospital. Armed with this newfound knowledge, she fearlessly ventured into the heart of the slums, driven by an unshakeable sense of purpose.
Amidst the formidable challenges, her tireless efforts brought dignity and care to individuals who had been marginalized and forgotten. Those who found refuge in her care received the medical attention they so desperately needed, ensuring that their final moments were characterized by compassion and respect. After their passing, they were granted appropriate last rites, serving as a powerful testament to the belief that someone cared for them even in their most vulnerable moments.
Step. 2. To strengthen the organization’s presence and spread the message of international unity, Mother Teresa initiated the creation of several institutions. On October 7, 1950, a momentous day, she obtained permission from the Vatican to establish a diocesan congregation, which would later evolve into the Missionaries of Charity. In her relentless pursuit of her humanitarian vision, Mother Teresa expanded the reach of her mission. She founded the Missionaries of Charity for Brothers in 1963, followed by the Contemplative Branch of Sisters in 1976 and the Contemplative Branch of Brothers in 1979.
As part of their compassionate outreach, the Missionaries of Charity established leprosy outreach clinics throughout Calcutta, providing crucial medical care, dressings, and sustenance to those in need. This noble initiative has since grown significantly.
Step 3. To this day, the remarkable organization has extended its compassionate reach to over 100 countries worldwide. In its early years, the congregation began to attract dedicated recruits and generous donations. By the 1960s, it had established a network of hospices, orphanages, and leper houses throughout India, firmly establishing itself as a positive force.
By 1997, the once modest Calcutta congregation, which started with just 13 members, had grown into an extraordinary community of over 4,000 devoted sisters. These sisters took on a diverse array of roles, overseeing orphanages, AIDS hospices, and charity centers on a global scale. Their mission encompassed caring for a multitude of individuals, including refugees, the visually impaired, the disabled, the elderly, alcoholics, the impoverished, the homeless, as well as victims of floods, epidemics, and famine.
After 1980, Mother Teresa faced several significant health challenges, including two cardiac arrests. In 1983, during a visit to Pope John Paul II in Rome, she suffered a heart attack. Remarkably, despite these health issues, Mother Teresa continued to efficiently lead the Missionaries of Charity and its various branches. Her resilience was evident even after she fell and broke her collarbone in April 1996. Just four months later, she battled both malaria and heart failure. Sadly, her health continued to deteriorate, and on September 5, 1997, she passed away. Her remarkable journey as the head of the Missionaries of Charity came to an end when she resigned from her position on March 13, 1997.
Awards and Recognitions
In 1979, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her relentless efforts to combat poverty and alleviate suffering, which she believed to be a significant threat to peace. During her Nobel lecture, she delved into the complexity of addressing poverty, not only in impoverished nations but also in the more affluent West. She conveyed her perspective by stating, “When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, and I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person who is isolated, who feels unwelcome, unloved, and terrified, a person who has been cast out from society—this form of poverty is deeply painful and pervasive, and I find it very challenging to address.”
Mother Teresa’s exceptional work received widespread recognition, and she earned numerous awards and honors during her lifetime, including the Padma Shree in 1962 and the Bharat Ratna in 1980.
Social and political views
Mother Teresa strongly labeled abortion as “the greatest destroyer of peace today.” She underscored her conviction that if a mother could make the choice to end her own child’s life, it raised troubling questions about the sanctity of human life and the potential for violence among people. Her entire life and devoted work stood as a testament to her resolute commitment to the profound joy of love, the innate greatness and dignity of every individual, the importance of performing even small acts with love, and the immeasurable value of a deep spiritual connection with God.
Saint Teresa, guided by her profound love and compassion, believed in the power of every interaction to leave a person feeling uplifted and happier. She found this transformative power through prayer and the serene contemplation of Jesus Christ, his Holy Face, and his Sacred Heart. In line with this philosophy, the Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa was founded.
Despite her public image of unwavering faith and dedication, Mother Teresa privately wrestled with doubts and spiritual turmoil that endured for nearly five decades, persisting until the end of her life. May all who walk through these doors discover the opportunity for a brighter and more joyful future. This mission aligns with the life’s work of someone who devoted a significant portion of their life to serving the impoverished, with a particular focus on those affected by leprosy.
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