“Spread love wherever you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”– Mother Teresa
September 5th marks the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa. To commemorate the date of what would have been Mother Teresa’s 105th birthday, Indian nuns from the Catholic Order, of the Missionaries of Charity, recently took part in a special mass.
Who Is Mother Teresa?
Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia on August 26, 1910, and was the youngest of three children. As a teenager she joined the parish youth group, which was led by a Jesuit priest who inspired Agnes’s interest in missionary work. Aged 17, Agnes received her first spiritual calling and joined the Irish order Sisters of Loretto as a Catholic Missionary nun. When taking her vows, Agnes chose the name Teresa, after Saint Therese of Lisieux.
Sister Teresa taught catechism and geography at St Mary’s school in Calcutta, and became the principal in 1944. When she contracted tuberculosis she was unable to teach and was sent to Darjeeling for rest and recuperation. During the train journey Sister Teresa received her second calling, which she later referred to as “the call within the call”. This calling directed her to live and work with the poor.
Helping The Needy
In 1948 Sister Teresa began her missionary work with the poor in Calcutta. She started a school in the slums and having learned some basic medicine she also visited the homes of the sick in order to treat them. With the support of some former pupils Sister Teresa rented a room so that the poor and rejected people on the streets could be cared for. Known as the Missionaries of Charity, the group was established by the Church in 1950.
In 1952 the first home for the dying was opened. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity expanded from 12 helpers to thousands, in 450 centres around the world. For over 45 years, Mother Teresa worked to comfort the poor, dying and abandoned people around the world. In 1966, the Missionaries of Charity Brothers was founded and homes were opened in Rome, Tanzania, and Australia.
In 1971, the first home in the United States was opened in the South Bronx, New York. Homes were later established for drug addicts, prostitutes and battered women. Orphanages and schools were also opened for poor children around the world. By 1991 there were 168 homes established in India alone.
The tireless work on behalf of world peace gained Mother Teresa worldwide recognition, and she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She asked that the $6,000 prize be donated to the poor in Calcutta, so that hundreds of people could be fed for a year.
Mother Teresa was a leading pioneer in establishing homes for AIDS victims. In 1985, she opened the first AIDS hospice in New York. Hospices were also established in San Francisco and Atlanta. For this work Mother Teresa was awarded the Medal of Freedom, which is the highest US civilian award. In November 1996, she received an honorary US citizenship.
Mother Teresa travelled all over the world to help the poor, hungry and destitute. Whilst visiting Pope John Paul II in 1983 she suffered a heart attack. After a second heart attack in 1989 she received an artificial pacemaker, but continued to battle further heart problems. Due to ill health she stepped down as the head of Missionaries of Charity in March 1997. She died on September 5th, 1997.
In 2003 Mother Teresa was beatified (the step before sainthood) by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, and given the title Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.