Mother Teresa (1985)
Born August 26, 1910
Uskub, Ottoman Empire
Died September 5, 1997 (age 87)
Kolkata, India (officially: Blessed Teresa, born: Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu
['agn?s gon'?a b?'ja?ju] (August 26, 1910 – September 5, 1997),
Bharat Ratna, OM, was an Albanian Roman Catholic who founded the Missionaries
of Charity and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her humanitarian
Agnes was born
on 26 August, 1910, in the centre of Uskub, in the Kosovo Province
of the Ottoman Empire (now Skopje, Republic of Macedonia). Her parents
were Albanians: Nikollë and Dranafille Bojaxhiu, her father originally
from Mirëdita (North Albania) and her mother from Ðakovica(Gjakovë).
Raised as a Catholic by her parents, her father died when she was only
7 years old. During her early years, she was fascinated with stories
of missionary life and service. She had knowledge of help offered at
different sites, and was able to point at them on a map. She decided
she would become a nun at the age of 18, at which time she left her
house and joined the Sisters of Loreto. In 1928 she forgot life as she
knew it, and never set eyes on family members (including her mother)
's Home for the Dying in Kolkata (Calcutta). on Macedonian stamp.
The beginnings of the Missionaries of Charity
On October 7, 1950, Teresa received Vatican permission to start a diocesan
congregation, which would become the Missionaries of Charity, whose
mission was to care for (in her own words) "the hungry, the naked,
the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people
who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that
have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone."
It began as a small order with 13 members in Calcutta; today it has
more than 4,000 nuns running orphanages, AIDS hospices, and charity
centers worldwide, and caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged,
alcoholics, the poor and homeless, and victims of floods, epidemics,
In 1952, the first
Home for the Dying was opened in space made available by the City of
Calcutta. With the help of Indian officials she converted an abandoned
Hindu temple into the Kalighat Home for the Dying, a free hospice for
the poor. She renamed it Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart (Nirmal
Hriday). She soon opened a home for those suffering from Hansen's disease,
commonly known as leprosy, and called the hospice Shanti Nagar (City
of Peace). An orphanage followed. The order soon began to attract both
recruits and charitable donations, and by the 1960s had opened hospices,
orphanages, and leper houses all over India. She was one of the first
to establish homes for AIDS victims.
Teresa's order started
to grow rapidly, with new homes opening all over the globe. The order's
first house outside India was in Venezuela, and others followed in Rome
and Tanzania, and eventually in many countries in Asia, Africa, and
Europe, including her native Albania.
By the early 1970s,
Mother Teresa had become an international celebrity. Her fame can be
in large part attributed to the 1969 documentary Something Beautiful
for God which was filmed by Malcolm Muggeridge and his 1971 book of
the same title, which is still in print. During the filming of the documentary,
footage taken in poor lighting conditions, particularly the Home for
the Dying, was thought unlikely to be of usable quality by the crew.
After returning from India, however, the footage was found to be extremely
well lit. Muggeridge claimed this was a miracle of "divine light"
from Mother Teresa herself. Others in the crew thought it more likely
ascribable to a new type of Kodak film. Muggeridge later converted to
President Ronald Reagan presents Mother Teresa with the Medal of Freedom
at a White House ceremony, 1985.In 1971, Paul VI awarded her the first
Pope John XXIII Peace Prize. Other awards bestowed upon her included
a Kennedy Prize (1971), the Balzan prize (1979) for humanity, peace
and brotherhood among peoples, the Albert Schweitzer International Prize
(1975), the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom (1985) and Congressional
Gold Medal (1994), honorary citizenship of the United States (November
16, 1996), and honorary degrees from a number of universities. In 1972,
Mother Teresa was awarded the Nehru Prize for her promotion of international
peace and understanding.
In 1979, Mother
Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, "for work undertaken
in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute
a threat to peace." She refused the conventional ceremonial banquet
given to laureates, and asked that the $6,000 funds be diverted to the
poor in Calcutta, claiming the money would permit her to feed hundreds
of needy for a year. She is stated to have said that earthly rewards
were important only if they helped her help the world's needy. When
Mother Teresa received the prize, she was asked, "What can we do
to promote world peace?" Her answer was simple: "Go home and
love your family." In the same year, she was also awarded the Balzan
prize for promoting peace and brotherhood among the nations.
In 1982, Mother
Teresa persuaded Israelis and Palestinians, who were in the midst of
a skirmish, to cease fire long enough to rescue 37 mentally handicapped
patients from a besieged hospital in Beirut.
When the walls of
Eastern Europe collapsed, she expanded her efforts to communist countries
that had rejected her, embarking on dozens of projects. She was undeterred
by criticism about her firm stand against abortion and divorce saying,
"No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and
do your own work."
Mother Teresa travelled
to help the hungry in Ethiopia, radiation victims at Chernobyl, and
earthquake victims in Armenia.
In 1991, Mother
Teresa returned for the first time to her native region and opened a
Missionaries of Charity Brothers home in Tirana, Albania.
By 1996, she was
operating 517 missions in more than 100 countries. Over the years, Mother
Teresa's Missionaries of Charity grew from 12 to thousands serving the
"poorest of the poor" in 450 centers around the world. The
first Missionaries of Charity home in the United States was established
in the South Bronx, New York.
Analyzing her deeds and achievements, John Paul II asked: "Where
did Mother Teresa find the strength and perseverance to place herself
completely at the service of others? She found it in prayer and in the
silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, his Holy Face, his Sacred Heart."
In his first encyclical
Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI mentioned Teresa of Calcutta three times
and he also used her life to clarify one of his main points of the encyclical.
"In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration
of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract
from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the
inexhaustible source of that service."
A Franciscan influence
Although there was no direct connection between Mother Teresa's order
and the Franciscan orders, she was known as a great admirer of St. Francis
of Assisi. Accordingly, her influence and life show influences of
Her sisters say
the peace prayer of St. Francis every morning before breakfast and many
of the vows and emphasis of her ministry are similar. St. Francis emphasized
poverty, chastity, obedience and submission to Christ. He also devoted
much of his own life to service of the poor, especially lepers in the
area where he lived.
Deteriorating health and death
In 1983, Teresa suffered a heart attack in Rome, while visiting Pope
John Paul II. After a second attack in 1989, she received a pacemaker.
In 1991, after a battle with pneumonia while in Mexico, she had further
She offered to resign
her position as head of the order. A secret ballot vote was carried
out, and all the nuns, except herself, voted for Mother Teresa to stay.
Mother Teresa agreed to continue her work as head of the Missionaries
In April 1996, Mother
Teresa fell and broke her collar bone. Later that year, in August, she
suffered from malaria, and failure of the left heart ventricle. She
underwent heart surgery, but it was clear that her health was declining.
On March 13, 1997 she stepped down from the head of Missionaries of
Charity and died on September 5, 1997, just 9 days after her 87th birthday.
(News of her death was overshadowed by publicity for the funeral of
Princess Diana on September 6, 1997.)
The Archbishop of
Calcutta, Henry Sebastian D'Souza, said he ordered a priest to perform
an exorcism on Mother Teresa with her permission when she was first
hospitalized with cardiac problems because he thought she may be under
attack by the devil.
At the time of her
death, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters,
an associated brotherhood of 300 members, and over 100,000 lay volunteers,
operating 610 missions in 123 countries. These included hospices and
homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens,
children's and family counseling programs, orphanages, and schools.
Mother Teresa was
granted a full state funeral by the Indian Government, an honor normally
given to presidents and prime ministers, in gratitude for her services
to the poor of all religions in India. Her death was widely considered
a great tragedy within both secular and religious communities. The former
U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, for example,
said: "She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world."
Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan said that Mother Teresa
was "a rare and unique individual who lived long for higher purposes.
Her life-long devotion to the care of the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged
was one of the highest examples of service to our humanity."
Influence in the world
with Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandrann and J&K Chief
Minister Farook Abdullah.Mother Teresa's work inspired other Catholics
to affiliate themselves with her order. The Missionaries of Charity
Brothers was founded in 1963, and a contemplative branch of the Sisters
followed in 1976. Lay Catholics and non-Catholics were enrolled in the
Co-Workers of Mother Teresa, the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, and
the Lay Missionaries of Charity. In answer to the requests of many priests,
in 1981 Mother Teresa also began the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests
, and in 1984 founded with Fr. Joseph Langford the Missionaries of
Charity Fathers to combine the beauty of the vocation of the Missionaries
of Charity with the resources of the ministerial priesthood. Today
over one million workers worldwide volunteer for the Missionaries of
During her lifetime
and after her death, Mother Teresa was consistently found by Gallup
to be the single most widely admired person, and in 1999 was ranked
as the "most admired person of the 20th century." Notably,
Mother Teresa out-polled all other volunteered answers by a wide margin,
and was in first place in all major demographic categories except the
Miracle and beatification
Following Teresa's death in 1997, the Holy See began the process of
beatification, the second step towards possible canonization, or sainthood.
This process requires the documentation of a miracle performed from
the intercession of Mother Teresa. In 2002, the Vatican recognized as
a miracle the healing of a tumor in the abdomen of an Indian woman,
Monica Besra, following the application of a locket containing Teresa's
picture. Monica Besra said that a beam of light emanated from the picture,
curing the cancerous tumor.
The issue of the
alleged miracle proved controversial in India around the time of Mother
Teresa's beatification. Teresa was formally beatified by Pope John
Paul II on October 19, 2003 with the title Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
A second miracle is required for her to proceed to canonization.
According to The
Daily Telegraph, Besra's husband initially said that the tumor was cured
by medical treatment. He is quoted as saying: "This miracle is
a hoax. It is much ado about nothing. My wife was cured by the doctors."
He later changed his mind, however, and told an interviewer: "It
was her miracle healing that cured my wife. Our situation was terrible
and we didn't know what to do. Now my children are being educated with
the help of the nuns and I have been able to buy a small piece of land.
Everything has changed for the better." According to Monica
Besra in TIME Asia, records of her treatment were removed by a member
of the order from the hospital and are now with a nun.
Christopher Hitchens, wrote that Mother Teresa's own words on poverty
proved that "her intention was not to help people", and he
alleged that she lied to donors about the use of their contributions.
Hitchens was the only witness called by the Vatican to give evidence
against Mother Teresa's beatification and canonization process, as the
Vatican had abolished the traditional "devil's advocate" role
that filled a similar purpose.
Mother Teresa made
some public statements regarding political leaders that have produced
controversy even in Catholic media, including her friendships and connections
with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's and Haitian strongman Jean-Claude
In 1994, Dr. Robin Fox, then editor of the British medical journal The
Lancet, visited the Home for Dying Destitute in Calcutta and described
the medical care the patients received as "haphazard".
Dr. Fox criticised Teresa, claiming that her order did not distinguish
between curable and incurable patients, putting curable patients at
risk. He observed that the staff re-used hypodermic needles after merely
washing, but not sterilizing, them.
Aroup Chatterjee stated that none of the eight facilities that the Missionaries
of Charity run in Papua New Guinea have residents living there; their
sole use is converting people to Catholicism. He also questioned the
number of people who Mother Teresa claims to help at her facilities.
Other has garnered criticism for her encouragement of sacramental
baptisms being performed on the dying (a majority of whom were Hindus
and Muslims), thus converting them to the Catholic faith .
In a speech at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego, California in January
1992, she said, "Something very beautiful... not one has died without
receiving the special ticket for St. Peter, as we call it. We call baptism
'a ticket for St. Peter.' We ask the person, do you want a blessing
by which your sins will be forgiven and you receive God? They have never
refused. So 29,000 have died in that one house [in Kalighat] from the
time we began in 1952." Critics argue that this attitude is contradictory
to the Missionaries of Charity oft-stated principle to help others regardless
of religious beliefs.
The Catholic Church's
response to criticism
In the process of examining Teresa's suitability for beatification and
canonization, the Roman Curia (the Vatican) pored over a great deal
of documentation of published and unpublished criticisms against her
life and work. Vatican officials say Hitchens' allegations have been
investigated by the agency charged with such matters, the Congregation
for the Causes of Saints, and they found no obstacle to Mother Teresa's
canonization. Due to the attacks she has received, some Catholic
writers have called her a sign of contradiction. 
Memorial plaque dedicated to Mother Teresa at a building in Václavské
námestí in Olomouc, Czech Republic.
Memorial Museum of Mother Teresa
A memorial room (museum) was opened in the Feudal Tower in Skopje, a
building in which she used to play as a child. The museum has a significant
selection of objects from Mother Teresa's life in Skopje and relics
from her later life. In the Memorial room there is a model of her family
home, made by the artist Vojo Georgievski.
Next to the Memorial
room, there is an area with the image of Mother Teresa and her prayer
as well as a memorial park and a fountain.
Memorial plaque where Mother Teresa's home stood
Just at the edge of Skopje's city mall is the place where the house
of Mother Teresa used to stand. The memorial plaque was dedicated in
March of 1998 and it reads: "On this place was the house where
Gondza Bojadziu - Mother Teresa - was born on 26 August 1910".
Her message to the world is also inscribed: "The world is not hungry
for bread, but for love."
This luminous messenger
of God’s love was born on 26 August 1910 in Skopje, a city situated
at the crossroads of Balkan history. The youngest of the children born
to Nikola and Drane Bojaxhiu, she was baptised Gonxha Agnes, received
her First Communion at the age of five and a half and was confirmed
in November 1916. From the day of her First Holy Communion, a love for
souls was within her. Her father’s sudden death when Gonxha was
about eight years old left in the family in financial straits. Drane
raised her children firmly and lovingly, greatly influencing her daughter’s
character and vocation. Gonxha’s religious formation was further
assisted by the vibrant Jesuit parish of the Sacred Heart in which she
was much involved.
At the age of eighteen,
moved by a desire to become a missionary, Gonxha left her home in September
1928 to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the
Sisters of Loreto, in Ireland. There she received the name Sister Mary
Teresa after St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In December, she
departed for India, arriving in Calcutta on 6 January 1929. After making
her First Profession of Vows in May 1931, Sister Teresa was assigned
to the Loreto Entally community in Calcutta and taught at St. Mary’s
School for girls. On 24 May 1937, Sister Teresa made her Final Profession
of Vows, becoming, as she said, the “spouse of Jesus” for
“all eternity.” From that time on she was called Mother
Teresa. She continued teaching at St. Mary’s and in 1944 became
the school’s principal. A person of profound prayer and deep love
for her religious sisters and her students, Mother Teresa’s twenty
years in Loreto were filled with profound happiness. Noted for her charity,
unselfishness and courage, her capacity for hard work and a natural
talent for organization, she lived out her consecration to Jesus, in
the midst of her companions, with fidelity and joy.
On 10 September
1946 during the train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual
retreat, Mother Teresa received her “inspiration,” her “call
within a call.” On that day, in a way she would never explain,
Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls took hold of her heart and
the desire to satiate His thirst became the driving force of her life.
Over the course of the next weeks and months, by means of interior locutions
and visions, Jesus revealed to her the desire of His heart for “victims
of love” who would “radiate His love on souls.” “Come
be My light,” He begged her. “I cannot go alone.”
He revealed His pain at the neglect of the poor, His sorrow at their
ignorance of Him and His longing for their love. He asked Mother Teresa
to establish a religious community, Missionaries of Charity, dedicated
to the service of the poorest of the poor. Nearly two years of testing
and discernment passed before Mother Teresa received permission to begin.
On August 17, 1948, she dressed for the first time in a white, blue-bordered
sari and passed through the gates of her beloved Loreto convent to enter
the world of the poor.
After a short course
with the Medical Mission Sisters in Patna, Mother Teresa returned to
Calcutta and found temporary lodging with the Little Sisters of the
Poor. On 21 December she went for the first time to the slums. She visited
families, washed the sores of some children, cared for an old man lying
sick on the road and nursed a woman dying of hunger and TB. She started
each day in communion with Jesus in the Eucharist and then went out,
rosary in her hand, to find and serve Him in “the unwanted, the
unloved, the uncared for.” After some months, she was joined,
one by one, by her former students.
On 7 October 1950
the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was officially established
in the Archdiocese of Calcutta. By the early 1960s, Mother Teresa began
to send her Sisters to other parts of India. The Decree of Praise granted
to the Congregation by Pope Paul VI in February 1965 encouraged her
to open a house in Venezuela. It was soon followed by foundations in
Rome and Tanzania and, eventually, on every continent. Starting in 1980
and continuing through the 1990s, Mother Teresa opened houses in almost
all of the communist countries, including the former Soviet Union, Albania
In order to respond
better to both the physical and spiritual needs of the poor, Mother
Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity Brothers in 1963, in 1976
the contemplative branch of the Sisters, in 1979 the Contemplative Brothers,
and in 1984 the Missionaries of Charity Fathers. Yet her inspiration
was not limited to those with religious vocations. She formed the Co-Workers
of Mother Teresa and the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, people of many
faiths and nationalities with whom she shared her spirit of prayer,
simplicity, sacrifice and her apostolate of humble works of love. This
spirit later inspired the Lay Missionaries of Charity. In answer to
the requests of many priests, in 1981 Mother Teresa also began the Corpus
Christi Movement for Priests as a “little way of holiness”
for those who desire to share in her charism and spirit.
During the years
of rapid growth the world began to turn its eyes towards Mother Teresa
and the work she had started. Numerous awards, beginning with the Indian
Padmashri Award in 1962 and notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, honoured
her work, while an increasingly interested media began to follow her
activities. She received both prizes and attention “for the glory
of God and in the name of the poor.”
The whole of Mother
Teresa’s life and labour bore witness to the joy of loving, the
greatness and dignity of every human person, the value of little things
done faithfully and with love, and the surpassing worth of friendship
with God. But there was another heroic side of this great woman that
was revealed only after her death. Hidden from all eyes, hidden even
from those closest to her, was her interior life marked by an experience
of a deep, painful and abiding feeling of being separated from God,
even rejected by Him, along with an ever-increasing longing for His
love. She called her inner experience, “the darkness.” The
“painful night” of her soul, which began around the time
she started her work for the poor and continued to the end of her life,
led Mother Teresa to an ever more profound union with God. Through the
darkness she mystically participated in the thirst of Jesus, in His
painful and burning longing for love, and she shared in the interior
desolation of the poor.
During the last
years of her life, despite increasingly severe health problems, Mother
Teresa continued to govern her Society and respond to the needs of the
poor and the Church. By 1997, Mother Teresa’s Sisters numbered
nearly 4,000 members and were established in 610 foundations in 123
countries of the world. In March 1997 she blessed her newly-elected
successor as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity and then
made one more trip abroad. After meeting Pope John Paul II for the last
time, she returned to Calcutta and spent her final weeks receiving visitors
and instructing her Sisters. On 5 September Mother Teresa’s earthly
life came to an end. She was given the honour of a state funeral by
the Government of India and her body was buried in the Mother House
of the Missionaries of Charity. Her tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage
and prayer for people of all faiths, rich and poor alike. Mother Teresa
left a testament of unshakable faith, invincible hope and extraordinary
charity. Her response to Jesus’ plea, “Come be My light,”
made her a Missionary of Charity, a “mother to the poor,”
a symbol of compassion to the world, and a living witness to the thirsting
love of God.
Less than two years
after her death, in view of Mother Teresa’s widespread reputation
of holiness and the favours being reported, Pope John Paul II permitted
the opening of her Cause of Canonization. On 20 December 2002 he approved
the decrees of her heroic virtues and miracles.