Mother Teresa was the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to helping the poor. Considered one of the 20th Century's greatest humanitarians, she was canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta in 2016.
A Nun and missionary Mother Teresa, known in the Catholic church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, devoted her life to caring for the sick and poor. Born in Macedonia to parents of Albanian-descent and having taught in India for 17 years, Mother Teresa experienced her "call within a call" in 1946. Her order established a hospice; centers for the blind, aged and disabled; and a leper colony.
In 1979, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work. She died in September 1997 and was beatified in October 2003. In December 2015, Pope Francis recognized a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa, clearing the way for her to be canonized on September 4, 2016.
Mother Teresa was born on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, the current capital of the Republic of Macedonia. The following day, she was baptized as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu.
Mother Teresa’s parents, Nikola and Dranafile Bojaxhiu, were of Albanian descent; her father was an entrepreneur who worked as a construction contractor and a trader of medicines and other goods. The Bojaxhius were a devoutly Catholic family, and Nikola was deeply involved in the local church as well as in city politics as a vocal proponent of Albanian independence.
In 1919, when Mother Teresa — then Agnes — was only eight years old, her father suddenly fell ill and died. While the cause of his death remains unknown, many have speculated that political enemies poisoned him.
In the aftermath of her father's death, Agnes became extraordinarily close to her mother, a pious and compassionate woman who instilled in her daughter a deep commitment to charity. Although by no means wealthy, Drana Bojaxhiu extended an open invitation to the city's destitute to dine with her family. "My child, never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others," she counseled her daughter. When Agnes asked who the people eating with them were, her mother uniformly responded, "Some of them are our relations, but all of them are our people."
On September 10, 1946, Mother Teresa experienced a second calling, the "call within a call" that would forever transform her life. She was riding in a train from Calcutta to the Himalayan foothills for a retreat when she said 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.
Since Mother Teresa had taken a vow of obedience, she could not leave her convent without official permission. After nearly a year and a half of lobbying, in January 1948 she finally received approval to pursue this new calling. That August, donning the blue-and-white sari that she would wear in public for the rest of her life, she left the Loreto convent and wandered out into the city. After six months of basic medical training, she voyaged for the first time into Calcutta's slums with no more specific a goal than to aid "the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for."
Missionaries of Charity
Mother Teresa quickly translated her calling into concrete actions to help the city's poor. She began an open-air school and established a home for the dying destitute in a dilapidated building she convinced the city government to donate to her cause. In October 1950, she won canonical recognition for a new congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, which she founded with only a handful of members—most of them former teachers or pupils from St. Mary's School.
As the ranks of her congregation swelled and donations poured in from around India and across the globe, the scope of Mother Teresa's charitable activities expanded exponentially. Over the course of the 1950s and 1960s, she established a leper colony, an orphanage, a nursing home, a family clinic and a string of mobile health.
Let us pray:
Saint Teresa of Calcutta, longing to love Jesus as He had never been loved before, you gave yourself entirely to Him, refusing Him nothing. In union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, you accepted His call to satiate His infinite thirst for love and souls and become a carrier of His love to the poorest of the poor. With loving trust and total surrender you fulfilled His will, witnessing to the joy of belonging totally to Him. You became so intimately united to Jesus your crucified Spouse that He deigned to share with you the agony of His Heart as He hung upon the Cross.
Saint Teresa, you promised to continuously bring the light of love to those on earth; pray for us that we also may long to satiate the burning thirst of Jesus by loving Him ardently, sharing in His sufferings joyfully, and serving Him wholeheartedly in our brothers and sisters, especially those most unloved and unwanted. Amen.