Mother Teresa - God's gift to humanity - dedicated a major part of her life to serve the poor and destitute. Born as an Albanian, getting an Indian nationality later on, she became the Mother of the sick, destitute as well as impoverished.
The Roman Catholic nun was the founder of Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta in India. All through her life, Mother Teresa helped and served people suffering from various incurable diseases, affected by natural calamities and those unwanted by the society. Love, humanity and helping others selflessly were her reasons to live on Earth.
Mother Teresa was the youngest child of Nikola and Drane Bojaxhiu and was originally named 'Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu Ans'. Agnes received her first communion at the age of five. From her childhood, she attended prayers and devoted herself in the worship of the Almighty. When Agnes was eight years old, her father died, because of which, the family faced financial crisis. Drane Bojaxhiu, then, assumed the dual role - of being a mother and a father - and helped her children develop a good character. Under the influence and guidance of her mother and a priest, Agnes decided to carry out missionary work.
Agnes decided to become a Catholic nun, in order to do missionary work and spread the message of love and compassion in the world. In 1928, she became a Catholic nun and changed her name from Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to Teresa. Later on, she joined the Irish order 'The Sisters of Loretto'. In order to carry out missionary work in India, she was sent to Calcutta on 6th January 1929, where she was appointed as a teacher at St. Mary's High School. Sister Teresa became Mother Teresa on 24th May 1937, when she made final Profession of Vows to become the ‘Spouse of Jesus for Eternity’. She continued to work as a teacher. In 1944, she was made the Principal of the school.
Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School from 1931 to 1948. The condition of poor people outside the convent made such a deep impact on her that she decided to serve the destitute.
In 1948, she was granted permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and take on the task of serving the poor slum dwellers in Calcutta. Although she had no funds, it was her determination that kept her going. With strong faith on the Divine Providence, she started an open-air school for slum children.
Soon, she was joined by volunteer helpers. Financial assistance started pouring in. This made it possible for Mother Teresa to extend the scope of her social service.
Mother Teresa’s work was not limited to teaching the poor children; she also educated the adults. As she traveled across the slum areas of Calcutta, she noticed that there was a lack of basic facilities, such as hospitals and clinics, for the poor. Hence, she learnt some basic medication techniques and started giving treatment to those who could not afford medication.
Her efforts influenced her former pupils to form a group known as ‘Missionaries of Charity’. The group soon started a facility wherein poor people, who were dying on the streets, were brought and taken care of. The service inspired people to join the noble cause and donate funds for the organization working under Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa made use of the donations and thousands of missionaries who had joined her, for the establishment of several centers for poor and needy people across the world. In 1980, she started Homes for people with no one to look after them, people suffering from various incurable diseases, prostitutes, drug addicts and orphans. One of her most significant works was the establishment of center for AIDS patients in 1985, wherein thousands of patients were provided shelter.
The Missionaries of Charity was officially recognized as an International Association, on March 29, 1969. By the beginning of 1990s, the number of co-workers had increased manifold and there were about a million of them, working in about 40 countries across the world.
Mother Teresa’s service to humanity received worldwide recognition. She stood as the icon of peace, love and compassion.
Her determination to serve the poor and needy fetched her about 124 prestigious awards, including 'Padmashree Award' (in 1962 from the President of India), 'John F. Kennedy International Award (1971), 'Bharat Ratna' , 'Order of Merit' from Queen Elizabeth, 'Nobel Peace Prize’ (1979), The Pope John XXIII Peace Prize', 'Medal of Freedom' (the highest US Civilian award) and many more.
Last Years Of Life
During the last years of her life, despite facing several health problems, Mother Teresa continued to serve the poor and needy and work for her Society and Church. By 1997, Mother Teresa’s Sisters numbered nearly 4000, working in about 610 foundations in 123 countries across the world.
Her newly-elected successor was appointed the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, in March 1997. After meeting Pope John Paul II, she returned to Calcutta, where she spent her last weeks receiving visitors and giving instructions to her Sisters.
Death and Post Death
The death of Mother Teresa was a huge loss to humanity. She departed from this world, in Calcutta, on 5th September 1997, when she was 87 years old. On 19th October 2003, Pope John Paul II beatified Mother Teresa. The beatification, which took place in Rome, marked the first step of her sainthood.