Mother Teresa

Born: 26 August 1910, Kosovo Vilayet, Ottoman Empire (Present North Macedonia)

Venerated in: Roman Catholic church

Major shrines: Mother house of the missionaries of charity, Calcutta.

Death: 5 September 1997

Canonized: 4 September 2016, Vatican City by Pope

Mother Teresa, known in the Catholic church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, spent her life taking care of human beings in their sickness. The missionary and nun were a mother to many. She is the founder of Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation that was active in 133 countries and had over 4500 nuns.

Early life

Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary. She was born in Skopje, the present capital of North Macedonia, on 26 August 1910. She lived there for eighteen years and left for Ireland and then India, where she spent most of her lifetime. Her father was involved in community politics in Albania.

Teresa was fascinated by stories of the lives of missionaries and their service in Bengal in her early years; by age 12, she was convinced that she should commit herself to religious life, says her biography by Joan Graff Clucas.

She left home at the age of 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland, to learn English. She wanted to become a missionary. The language of instruction of the Sisters of Loreto in India. She never saw her family again. Her family lived in Skopje until 1934 until they moved to Tirana.

She arrived in India in 1929 and began her life in the regions of lower Himalayas. She learned Bengali and joined as a teacher near her convent.

She took her solemn vows in 1937 when she was a teacher at the Loreto convent school in eastern Calcutta. She enjoyed teaching but was deeply disturbed by the poverty in Calcutta. The Bengal Famine of 1943 had brought the city into misery. It was on September 10, 1946, Mother Teresa experienced a second calling, the “call within a call” that would forever transform her life on a train journey from Calcutta to the Himalayan foothills. According to her, Christ spoke to her and told her to abandon teaching to work in the slums of Calcutta aiding the city’s poorest and sickest people.

She left the school and found Missionaries of charity in 1950 and began her life to serve humanity.

Missionaries of Charity

In the beginning, she began a school and home for the destitute in a dilapidated building. City governance supported her. In October 1950, she won canonical recognition for her new congregation which she founded with only a handful of members—most of them former teachers or pupils from St. Mary’s School.

The Vatican joined her venture in 1950, with many others and the group was growing exponentially. She opened a hospice for those with leprosy, calling it Shanti Nagar (City of Peace). The Missionaries of Charity took in an increasing number of homeless children; in 1955 Teresa opened Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart, as a haven for orphans and homeless youth. The congregation began to attract recruits and donations, and by the 1960s it had opened hospices, orphanages, and houses for leprosy throughout India. The congregation grew further abroad after opening a house in Venezuela in 1965 with five sisters. Houses followed in Italy (Rome), Tanzania and Austria in 1968, and during the 1970s the congregation opened houses and foundations in the United States and dozens of countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

By 1997, Calcutta congregation had more than 4,000 sisters who managed orphanages, AIDS hospices, and charity centers worldwide, caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless, and victims of floods, epidemics, and famine. By 2007, the Missionaries of Charity numbered about 450 brothers and 5,000 sisters worldwide, operating 600 missions, schools, and shelters in 120 countries.

Awards and Recognition

In February 1965, Pope Paul VI bestowed the Decree of Praise upon the Missionaries of Charity. It was just the beginning. She received the Padma Shri and Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1962. She was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest honour bestowed on Indian civilians as well as the now-defunct Soviet Union’s Gold Medal of the Soviet Peace Committee. In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her work “in bringing help to suffering humanity.” To commemorate the 100th anniversary of her birth, the government of India issued a special ₹5 coin (the amount of money Teresa had when she arrived in India) on 28 August 2010.

Death

Her health began deteriorating from 1983 after a heart attack. She had attacks further and caused Pneumonia in 1991. She fell in 1996 breaking her collarbone. On 13 March, 1997, Teresa resigned as head of the Missionaries of Charity, and she died on 5 September.

Criticism

The great life was not without controversy. She drew criticism for opposing contraception and abortion. “I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion,” Mother Teresa said in her 1979 Nobel lecture.

In 1995 she publicly said ‘no’ to Ireland’s public referendum to end the country’s ban on divorce and remarriage. One of her critiques Christopher Hitchen said she glorified poverty in his book he Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.

According to Canadian academics Serge Larivee, Genevive Chenard and Carole Senechal, Teresa’s clinics lacked medical care, systemic diagnosis, sufficient analgesics even though it received millions of dollars in donations.