Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“By blood, I am Albanian; by citizenship, an Indian; by faith, I am a catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world; as to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus . . . God still loves the world, and He sends you and me to be His love and His compassion to the poor.”
Small of statue, rocklike in faith, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was entrusted with the mission of proclaiming God’s thirsting love for humanity, especially for the poorest of the poor.
She was born on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia and given the name Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. Her father, a well-respected local businessman, died when she was eight years old, leaving her mother, a devoutly religious woman, to open an embroidery and cloth business to support the family. After spending her adolescence deeply involved in parish activities, she left home in September, 1928, for the Loreto Convent in Rathfarnam (Dublin), Ireland, where she was admitted as a postulant on October 12th, and received the name of Teresa, after her patroness, St. Therese of Lisieux. The Convent sent her to India, and she arrived in Calcutta on January 6, 1929; there she joined the Loreto novitiate in Darjeeling, where she made her final profession as a Loreto nun on May 24, 1937, and thereafter was called “Mother Teresa.” While living in Calcutta during the 1930s and 1940s, she taught in St. Mary's Bengali Medium School.
On September 10, 1946, on a train journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling, Mother Teresa received what she termed the "call within a call," which was to give rise to the Missionaries of Charity family of Sisters, Brothers, Fathers, and Co-Workers. That call was an inspiration that revealed the mission she would give to her new institute: "to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and souls," by "labouring at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor." On October 7, 1950, the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was officially erected as a religious institute for the Archdiocese of Calcutta.
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Mother Teresa expanded the work of the Missionaries of Charity within Calcutta and throughout India. On February 1, 1965, Pope Paul VI granted the Decree of Praise to the Congregation, elevating it to a pontifical society. That year, the Society expanded its mission outside India to Cocorote, Venezuela, and, three years later, to Europe and Africa. By 1980, there were 158 Missionaries of Charity foundations around the world. Mother Teresa opened the first novitiate outside Calcutta in London; houses in Australia, the Middle East, and North America; Croatia; and East Berlin. In the 1990s they spread to almost all of the communist countries.
In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mother Teresa spoke at the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly in October, 1985. On Christmas Eve of that year, Mother Teresa opened "Gift of Love" in New York, her first house for AIDS patients.
From the late 1980s through the 1990s, despite increasing health problems, Mother Teresa travelled across the world for the profession of novices, opening of new houses, and service to the poor and disaster-stricken. New communities were founded in South Africa, Albania, Cuba, and war-torn Iraq. By 1997, the Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members, and were established in almost 600 foundations in 123 countries of the world.
In July 1997, after a summer of travelling to Rome, New York, and Washington, in a weak state of health, Mother Teresa returned to the Motherhouse in Calcutta, where she died on September 5th. Her body was transferred to St Thomas's Church, next to the Loreto convent where she had first arrived nearly 69 years earlier. Hundreds of thousands of people from all classes and all religions, from India and abroad, paid their respects. She received a state funeral on September 13th, her body being taken in procession - on the same gun carriage that had borne the bodies of Mohandas K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru- through the streets of Calcutta. Presidents, prime ministers, queens, and special envoys were present on behalf of countries from all over the world.
Mother Teresa was canonized on September 4, 2016.
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them. . . Kind words can be short and easy to speak,
but their echoes are truly endless. . . If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” [Mother Teresa]