Mother Teresa was a person that was admired and respected. She was a person that made an impact on your life and made people loot at the world with a different eye. Even though the world is full of good people, great humanitarians, people who donate billions of dollars, who raise their voices to make a difference, Mother Teresa stands out in the crowd, she was a very unique person.
Agnes was born on August 27, 1910 in Skopje in Macedonia and given the name of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. Teresa was the youngest of three children born to Nikola and Dronda Bojaxhiu. Her family was deeply religious Roman Catholics. Agnes learned about charity from her mother and father who never turned away from those in need whether seeking food, shelter, clothing or even money.
Her father was a popular merchant and a partner to an Italian merchant and her mother was a housewife. Her father owned several houses and was a member of the Skopje council. He was heavily involved in politics and it is said that his death was due to his activity in politics. In 1918 people believed that his enemies poisoned her father. At this point her family life changed. The family was left with little money and the church became very important part of their lives.
Agnes was always her own person, startlingly independent, obedient challenging, some preconceived notions and expectations. But the pastor of her church, Father Jambren Kovin, influenced her. The priest introduced Agnes to the work being done by missionaries in India. Agnes used to go trips with her mother to visit the elderly, sick and poor. Even though her mother had to work extra hard after her father’s death, the generosity that she showed people has such a profound influence on Agnes. During Agnes’s early years she was fascinated with missionary life and service.
At the age of eighteen she felt that she had been called to a religious life. So Agnes decided to follow the feelings in her heart and join the Loreto Sisters of Dublin. In 1928 Agnes began her religious life in Ireland. While in Ireland she learned to speak English and in November she went to India to teach English in an Indian school. There she spends seventeen years teaching and being principal of St. Mary’s high school in Calcutta. During her time there in 1929, Agnes started her novitiate in an Abbey in Darjeeling and Abbey in the foothills of the Himalayas. A novitiate is a time a nun spends studying, praying and contemplating before she takes her vows. On May 24, 1931, Agnes took her first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. She took her name for St. Theresa, the patron saint of missionaries. On May 14, 1937, Teresa took her final vows, promising to serve God for the rest of her life.
Everyday Teresa would look out of the convent to the streets of Calcutta. She wanted to help the starving and dying people on the streets. She was not allowed to leave the Loreto order of nuns. They had a rule that you could not leave the convent unless they were seriously ill. In August 1946, Sister Teresa couldn’t stand it any longer. A four-day riot had broken out between the Muslims and Hindus, thus stopping the food delivery. Sister Teresa left the convent to find food for her hundreds of students. She met some soldiers who gave her some bags of food and told her to stay off of the streets. But Teresa would soon experience another call from God.
On September 10, 1946 Sister Teresa experienced a call with a call on an annual retreat. She was convinced that god wanted her to reach out to the poor. She believed that God told her to leave the convent and help the poor while living with them. She felt that this was an order from God and not to do this would mean to break the faith. In 1947 Sister Teresa was given permission to leave the Loreto order of nuns. But Sister Teresa did not leave the convent until August 16, 1948. She set out onto the streets of Calcutta, wearing a simple cotton sari decorated with a blue border. She had no idea that her organization would adopt this outfit as their habit. Leaving the Loreto Abbey was one of the greatest sacrifices she ever made. She was leaving behind her only friends and companions to go out into the slums of the cities.
Before she went to the slums she proceeded to learn medical skills from Mother Anna Dengel in Patina. There the Medical Missionary Sisters immediately took her with them where they went to the houses of sick and dying people and local hospitals. Sister Teresa learned to care for people by practicing with the sisters. She learned how to deliver babies, fix broken bones and became aware of many common diseases and illness. She was a natural at caring for people and within three months set out to help the poor of Calcutta.
Arriving back in Calcutta, she got in touch with Father Van Exem, who would help her find a place to stay. Arrangements were made for her to stay at St. Joseph’s Home. There a group of nuns called the Little Sisters of the Poor gladly welcomed her. There were so many people to help that Sister Teresa didn’t know where to began. The Little Sisters of the Poor invited her to begin with them helping the elderly.
Sister Teresa stayed with the Little Sisters of the Poor until December 21, 1948. She left and went out to the streets of Calcutta to start her mission from God. She left St. Joseph’s with a packed lunch, no money, materials or companions. She started a school in the slum that she could see outside her window while at the convent.
The first day of school five students showed up for class. Sister Teresa had no books, desks or chalkboards, but due to her determination she still managed to teach. The alphabet was the first lesson taught. The word spread through the slums and soon she had forty students. The student’s learned about language and numbers, but also about personal hygiene and cleanliness. Through her students Sister Teresa met many families of Calcutta and about the poor medical care. Many families had no income because the man of the house had been stricken with a disease. Thousands of people died each year due to lack of medical care. Poverty grew and Sister Teresa knew she had to do something more.
Sister Teresa didn’t have money, but she did have her attention and energy, which she gladly gave to the poor. She walked the streets looking for places to help. The work exhausted her, but she never gave up. Her love and compassion for God, people and her work helped her to help people that no one would go near. Each night she would be tempted to go back to the easy life at Loreto, but instead she prayed to God for this help to get through it all.
In March 1949, Sister Teresa received a visitor at St. Joseph’s. The visitor was a student from Entally, who could not forget Sister Teresa’s kindness and generosity. She wanted to join Sister Teresa and work for the poor. Sister Teresa didn’t realize that this was the beginning of her order. Soon after Magdalena Gomes joined Sister Teresa. The three of them would go out into the streets each day, not knowing what to expect. By the end of the year eight more young girls joined to help the fight against poverty.
In 1949 to demonstrate her dedication to Calcutta’s poor, Sister Teresa decided to become an Indian citizen. On October 7, 1950 Cardinal Pietro Fumoson Biondi head of the office for the Propagation of the Faith, sanctioned Sister Teresa’s order, making her Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa always encouraged her nuns to treat the poor as a gift from God and to treat the patients with respect, warmth and kindness. The middle of 1953 the Missionaries of Charities moved to a new residence that was big enough to house the growing number of nuns. The nuns wanted to call Mother Teresa the Reverend Mother Teresa, but she refused because she never felt above anyone else.
In 1954 Mother Teresa was given an unused building for the dying. The building was transformed into the Place of the Immaculate Heart. This was a place for people who were terminally ill that could die with dignity instead of on the streets. Each morning Mother Teresa and the nuns would walk the streets for dying people and bring them to the building. They were treated as angels, and were loved and cared for until their death. When a mother would die leaving a child behind the nuns would take care of the children. In 1955 Mother Teresa opened up the children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart. There was children with no place to go were taken care of. Teenage girls who lost their family came there instead of turning to prostitution. They helped out by taking care of the children and were taught useful skills.
Even though Mother Teresa was criticized for wasting money on the dead and dying but she never stop. Her compassion for the poor and dying and the victims of leprosy was overwhelming. This compassion drove Mother Teresa to find medical care for them. In order to provide the medical care the nuns set up clinics where people could get medicines, disinfectant, bandages and other necessary supplies. The sisters opened up a rehabilitation clinic for lepers. One of Mother Teresa’s biggest achievement for the lepers was establishing the thirty-five acre Town of Peace which was a rehabilitating community for the leper.
In 1960 groups were formed by the Missionaries of Charity to travel to different parts of India. Homes were set up in many parts of India and by 1962 there were 119 members of the Missionaries of Charity. Due to the many contributions thirty centers were opened outside of Calcutta.
Mother Teresa traveled to the United States in 1960 and visited many states. She received hundreds of donations and met many people. She left the United States and traveled to England, Germany and Rome. The trip gave Mother Teresa many new ideas. One of the ideas was to have men involved in the same type of work as the sisters did. So on March 25, 1963, twelve men went to live at the Home of the Immaculate Heart to study for their missionary work. Brother Andrew who later was called General Servant headed these men. Their order was called the Brothers of Charity.
Mother Teresa brought them a small home for their headquarters. The brothers went into areas of Calcutta that the sisters could not and ran the men’s ward at the Home for the Dying. In no time the brothers grew and there were forty-four houses around the world.
In February of 1965, the Missionaries of Charity had gained permission to work outside of India by the Pope. This meant that Mother Teresa and the sisters could help the poor all over the world. The first home was in Cocorote Venezuela. There Mother Teresa started her work. She was determined to help the women and children. There was a shortage of food, clothing and medical care. In this area men would take more than one wife and then couldn’t support them. Mother Teresa’s goal was to educate the women so they could support themselves and their children. In order to accomplish this they fixed up an old hotel for their headquarters. Once this was completed they taught women how to type and sew. They even taught elementary school to children and anyone who wanted to learn. In the 1960’s and 1970”s over ten new houses were opened in South America.
In 1968 Mother Teresa was requested by Pope Paul Vito open a house in Rome. With no hesitation Mother Teresa brought the sisters to the poor out skirts of Rome. There was no electricity, heat or running water. She opened up a house for the poor people. In 1968 Mother Teresa received an invitation to go to Tanzania. The buildings were renovated for the poor people. Homes for old people, nurseries and medical supply rooms were established.
In 1969, with the help of Ann Blankie, Mother Teresa founded the International Association of the Co-workers of Mother Teresa for lay people who wanted to help. There were no requirements and you didn’t have to be Catholic or even be religious to join. When sick people wanted to become a part of her work she started a group called the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers.
Mother Teresa received the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize from Pope Paul VI. In 1971 he praised her fro her hard work with the poor and the efforts to make peach and also gave her a small statue of Jesus Christ and an award of $67,000.00 to use in her work.
In 1971 Mother Teresa brought her work to the United States. The first home was in Bronx New York. There she helped the children, the lonely, sick and unwanted. Groups of sisters went out and visited shut-ins, clean homes, get groceries and listen to the elderly. Camp programs were organized to keep children off the streets. Then in October Mother Teresa was given the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation Award by the Kennedy family. She received a check for $12,000, which she set up a fund for disabled and retarded children.
Although Mother Teresa was getting older and fragile she would not stop helping people. Even thought Mother Teresa turned sixty-one in 1971, she didn’t even think of retirement. In 1972 Mother Teresa and the missionaries of Charity went to Bangladesh, where there was a terrible devastation. Food was scare in the villages and many people were starving. Many women had been raped and were treated as outcasts and abandoned by their families. Until Mother Teresa arrived these women had nowhere to go. They would put their lives in jeopardy to hide the women that the men wanted to rape. They set up adoptions for unwanted babies, buried the dead and tended to wounds.
In 1973 Mother Teresa was given the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. In future years Mother Teresa would build many more houses for the poor and needy. She never turned down an opportunity to work with poor. She received many awards in the course of her mission. On December 9, 1979 Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize and a check for $190,000.00. She received the prize for her outstanding work with the poor and overall love for people. Three months later, she was presented with India’s greatest award, the Bharat Tatnu for the Jewel of India. In 1985 President Reagan awarded Mother Teresa with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In the following years Mother Teresa worked hard as she ever did despite her age. She talked about pro-life and worked with Aids victims of the world. Mother Teresa gave of all of herself until 1997.
On September 5, 1997 the world learned that Mother Teresa was given back to God. Her body was buried on Saturday, September 13, 1997, but her spirit was still alive. She was a wonderful human being and a great woman and she will always be missed. While on earth she taught us to forgive is to love and not to be selfishness. I know that her love and generosity will live on as looks down from Heaven.
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