Mother Teresa: The Life Nun

Mother Teresa established the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic society of women committed to assisting those less fortunate. Canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta in 2016, she is revered as one of the 20th century’s most influential humanitarian figures.

Who Was Mother Teresa?

A religious woman who serves on a mission. Mother Teresa, or Saint Teresa of Calcutta as she is more commonly referred to in the Catholic church, was an individual who spent her entire life tending to the needs of the needy and sick. After teaching for 17 years in India and having been born in Macedonia to parents of Albanian ethnicity, Mother Teresa had her “call within a call” experience in 1946. This event occurred after she had already taught in India for 17 years. Her order founded a home for the terminally ill, a colony for lepers, facilities for the blind, the elderly, and the disabled, and centers for the disabled.

Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 in recognition of her significant contributions to humanitarianism. She passed away in September of 1997; three years later, in October 2003, she was beatified. In December 2015, Pope Francis acknowledged a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa. This paved the way for Mother Teresa to be canonized on September 4, 2016.


Mother Teresa’s Family and Young Life

The city of Skopje, now the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, is where Mother Teresa was born on August 26, 1910. She was given the name Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu at her baptism the following day.

Nikola and Dranafile Bojaxhiu, Mother Teresa’s parents, were of Albanian heritage. Nikola was an entrepreneur who worked as a construction contractor and trader of pharmaceuticals. Dranafile was a homemaker. The Bojaxhis were a family of ardent Catholics, and Nikola was deeply involved in the local church and municipal politics as a vociferous supporter of Albanian independence.

Agnes, who would later become Mother Teresa, was just eight years old when her father unexpectedly became ill and passed away in 1919. Many people believe that political adversaries intentionally poisoned him, even though the cause of his death is still a mystery.

With the passing of Agnes’s father, the two of them were extremely close to one another. Agnes’s mother was devout and kind and instilled a profound dedication to philanthropy in her daughter. Drana Bojaxhiu invited the city’s homeless and impoverished people to join her family for dinner, even though she and her family were far from wealthy. Her advice to her daughter was to “never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others.” “My darling,” she called her, “never eat a single mouthful.” When Agnes inquired about the other diners’ identities, her mother responded each time: “Some of them are our relations, but all of them are our people.”

Education and Nunhood

First, Agnes went to a primary school managed by a convent, and then she went to a secondary school run by the state. When she was younger, she was a choir member at the local Sacred Heart church and was frequently invited to perform solos. The community went on a pilgrimage every year to the Church of the Black Madonna in Letnice, and it was on one of these trips when she was 12 years old, she first felt a summons to pursue a vocation in the monastic life. Agnes Bojaxhiu decided to enter religious life six years later, in 1928, when she was 18 years old. She took off for Ireland intending to join the Sisters of Loreto in Dublin. There, she decided to follow in the footsteps of Saint Therese of Lisieux by adopting the name Sister Mary Teresa.

A year later, Sister Mary Teresa moved to Darjeeling, India, to complete her novitiate there. In May 1931, she made her First Profession of Vows and became a member of the order. After that, she was dispatched to Kolkata, where she was given a position as a teacher at Saint Mary’s High School for Girls. This school was operated by the Loreto Sisters and was devoted to educating Bengali girls whose families were among the city’s most impoverished. As part of her mission to alleviate the girls’ poverty through education, Sister Teresa became proficient in both Bengali and Hindi, both of which she taught while she worked as a teacher of geography and history.

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She made her Final Profession of Vows on the 24th of May, 1937, committing herself to a life of chastity, obedience, and poverty. When she made her final vows as a Loreto nun, as was standard at the time, she was given the title of “Mother,” and from that point on, she was known as Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa kept working as a teacher at Saint Mary’s, and in 1944 she was promoted to the school’s principal position. She did this by being compassionate to her kids, being generous with her time, and making an unwavering commitment to ensuring that their education was the highest priority at all times. She prayed, “Give me the strength to be ever the light of their lives, so that I may lead them finally to you,” and she wrote the prayer down. “Give me the strength to be the light of their lives.”

‘Call Within a Call’

On September 10, 1946, Mother Teresa received a “call inside a call” that would forever alter the course of her life. This “call within a call” was a second calling she had previously ignored. She said that Christ appeared to her as she was on a train traveling from Kolkata to the foothills of the Himalayas for a retreat. According to her, Christ ordered her to give up teaching to work in the slums of Calcutta, assisting the city’s most impoverished and sickest people.

Since Mother Teresa had taken a vow of obedience, she could not depart from her convent without first receiving authorization. In January 1948, after nearly a year and a half of petitioning, she was finally permitted to pursue this new calling. In August of that year, she left the Loreto convent and wandered around the city while wearing the blue-and-white sari that she would continue to wear in public for the rest of her life. After completing six months of basic medical training, she made her first trip into the slums of Calcutta to assist “the unwanted, the unloved, and the uncared for.” Her mission statement did not include any further details.

Missionaries of Charity

Mother Teresa quickly turned her calling into actual acts to aid the needy in the city. She started an outdoor school and a home for the destitute who were nearing the end of their lives in an old structure that she could persuade the local authorities to grant to her cause. In October 1950, she was awarded canonical recognition for a new congregation she had created called the Missionaries of Charity. At the time, the congregation consisted of only a few members, most of whom had either been students or instructors at St. Mary’s School.

The number of people that Mother Teresa helped via her philanthropic work increased rapidly as the size of her congregation grew and as financial contributions came in from all around India and the rest of the world. She started a leper colony in the 1950s, an orphanage in the 1960s, a nursing home in the 1970s, a family clinic in the 1980s, and a series of mobile health clinics in the 1990s.

In 1971, Mother Teresa made the journey to New York City to start her first house of charity headquartered in the United States. In the summer of 1982, she journeyed covertly to Beirut, Lebanon, where she assisted youngsters of both Christian and Muslim faiths while she was there. When Mother Teresa came to New York in 1985, she gave a speech at the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate its 40th anniversary. While there, she also founded a home called Gift of Love for those affected with HIV or AIDS.

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Mother Teresa’s Awards and Recognition

The Missionaries of Charity were awarded the Decree of Praise by Pope Paul VI in February 1965, which served as the impetus for Mother Teresa to expand the organization’s global reach. When she passed away in 1997, the Missionaries of Charity had grown to include more than 4,000 members and thousands of other lay volunteers. They had 610 foundations in 123 countries across the globe.

The Decree of Praise was just the beginning of Mother Teresa’s many honors and accolades that she won for her selfless and excellent charitable work throughout her life. She was presented with the Gold Medal of the Soviet Peace Committee from the now-defunct Soviet Union and the Jewel of India, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an Indian civilian. In 1979, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Mother Teresa in recognition of her work “in giving relief to suffering humanity.” This work was cited as the reason for the award.

Criticism of Mother Teresa

Despite the immense acclaim she has received, Mother Teresa’s life and work have not been without their fair share of criticism. In particular, she has been criticized for her outspoken support of some of the most contentious teachings propagated by the Catholic Church, such as its stance against the use of contraceptives and abortion. Mother Teresa stated in her 1979 Nobel talk, “I feel that the biggest destroyer of peace today is abortion.”

She voiced her support for a “no” vote in the 1995 referendum held in Ireland to decide whether or not to lift the constitutional prohibition on divorce and remarriage in the country. The most scathing criticism of Mother Teresa can be found in the book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, written by Christopher Hitchens. In this book, Hitchens argued that Mother Teresa glorified poverty for her ends and provided a justification for preserving institutions and beliefs that sustained widespread poverty. This book contains some of the most scathing criticism of Mother Teresa.

When and How Mother Teresa Died

Mother Teresa passed away on September 5, 1997, at 87, following some years during which her health deteriorated, including difficulties with her heart, lungs, and kidneys.

Mother Teresa’s Letters

The revelation that Mother Teresa struggled with a crisis of faith for the majority of the last half-century of her life led to a comprehensive reassessment of her life after it was made public in 2003 that her private letters had been published.

In one letter of desperation that she sent to a trusted friend, she penned the following words: “Where is my Faith—even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness and darkness—My God—how painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith—I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd in my heart—and make me suffer untold agony.” Considering her public persona, such discoveries are stunning; nonetheless, they have also made Mother Teresa a more approachable and real figure for all who struggle with uncertainty regarding their beliefs.

Mother Teresa’s Miracles and Canonization

The Vatican acknowledged a miracle in 2002 that included an Indian woman named Monica Besra. She claimed that she was cured of an abdominal tumor via the intercession of Mother Teresa on the first anniversary of her passing in 1998. The miracle was recognized in 2002. On October 19, 2003, she was recognized by Pope John Paul II as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta,” which means that she was deemed to be in heaven.

Pope Francis issued a decision on December 17, 2015, which acknowledged a second miracle claimed by Mother Teresa. This action paved the path for Mother Teresa to be canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. The second miracle was the cure of a Brazilian man named Marcilio Andrino, who had been diagnosed with a viral brain illness and had fallen into a coma. According to a statement by a priest affiliated with the Missionaries of Charity, the man who had been carried into the operating room for emergency surgery woke up pain-free and was cured of his symptoms after his wife, family, and friends prayed to Mother Teresa for him before the procedure.

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The ceremony to canonize Mother Teresa as a saint took place on September 4, 2016, just one day before the 19th anniversary of the day she passed away. St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City served as the location for the canonization mass, which was presided over by Pope Francis. The canonization ceremony was attended by tens of thousands of Catholics and pilgrims from all over the world. The purpose of the celebration was to honor the woman known as “the saint of the gutters” during her lifetime due to the charity work she did with the less fortunate.

“After due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to be a saint, and we enroll her among the saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole church,” Pope Francis said in Latin. “We declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as a saint, and we enroll her among the saints.”

During the homily, Pope Francis reflected on the selfless life led by Mother Teresa. “Mother Teresa, in every aspect of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defense of human life, those unborn as well as those abandoned and discarded,” he said. “She made herself available for everyone through her welcome and defense of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded.” She bowed before those who were spent and left to die on the side of the road because she saw God’s dignity in them. She made sure that the world’s powerful people heard her, hoping they would acknowledge their responsibility for the crime of poverty that they had caused.

In addition, Jesus instructed others who believed in him to emulate her kind behavior. He said that the light shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering, adding that mercy was the salt that gave flavor to her work. The light shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering. “May she serve as an example of holiness for you.”


Even after her passing, Mother Teresa has continued to be remembered fondly by people worldwide. Mother Teresa is widely regarded as one of the most influential humanitarians of the 20th century due to her unflinching dedication to assisting those in the greatest need. She combined profound compassion and a fervent commitment to her cause with incredible organizational and managerial skills, which enabled her to develop a vast and effective international organization of missionaries to help impoverished citizens worldwide. Her organization was able to make a difference in the lives of people in a variety of countries.

At the very end of her life, despite the massive scope of her humanitarian work and the millions of people she impacted, she never had anything but the most modest opinion of her accomplishments. Mother Teresa, in her typically modest manner, offered this reflection on her life, which can be found in full below: “By blood, I am Albanian. An Indian by birth and citizenship. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. About my vocation, I am a part of the world. When it comes to my heart, I am completely committed to the Heart of Jesus.”

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