Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, more commonly known as Mother Teresa, was born on August 27, 1910 in a small town called Skopje, which is in current day Yugoslavia. Tragically when Agnes was 9 her father died. Despite the extra responsibility this put on her mother, she still found time to school Agnes and her other 2 children, as well as help members of her community with alcoholism. Thusly, starting at a very young age Agnes was taught to help those in need.
(http://www.tisv.be/mt/life.htm) At the young age of 12, Agnes decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and help the poor. When she was eighteen Agnes made the decision to join the Sisters of Loreto and left for their mission in Calcutta. Upon joining the sisterhood Agnes chose the name “Sister Teresa”, after Saint Teresa of Lisbeaux, the patroness of missionaries. It was there in Calcutta that Sister Teresa devoted her life to God and later took on the title of “Mother Teresa”. Her devotion changed countless lives of the people in India, as well as around the world.
(Spink, 83)Mother Teresa then began teaching at Saint Mary’s High School in Calcutta. In 1946 after seventeen years of teaching Mother Teresa’s life was drastically changed when she became gravely ill with tuberculosis. Her illness caused her to go to the town of Darjeeling to convalesce. While there, she experienced the call of God. God told Mother Teresa to give up all that she had and follow God into the slums and serve among the poorest of people. (Vardey, 15) Two years later, she received the permission of her superiors to leave the school and devote her time to working with the poor as God had instructed her.
Despite very limited funds she was able to found an open-air school for homeless children. Soon thereafter volunteers in the community began to help support the school financially. This support was reassuring and it encouraged Mother Teresa to continue her work further in the community. (Vardey, 18)In 1950 Mother Teresa said, “I realized that I had the call to take care of the sick, and the dying, the hungry, the naked, the homeless- to be God’s love in action to the poorest of the poor” and she decided to found her own order named The Missionaries of Charity. (http://www.
members.tripod.com) Members of the Missionaries of Charity made the three basic vows: poverty, chastity, and obedience as well as an additional fourth, one of service to the poor. It is clear that Mother Teresa has a particular passion for helping the poor; this is because she believed that the poor are the embodiment of Christ. The Missionaries of Charity began with only twelve members.
Over time however, Mother Teresa’s order has grown to a membership of over four thousand today. One of the first accomplishments of the order was to establish a home for the needy people of Calcutta. In an interview Mother Teresa describes how she came about forming another program to help those in need:“The woman was half eaten up by rats and ants. I took her to the hospital but they could do nothing for her. They only took her because I refused to go home unless something was done for her. After they cared for her, I went straight to the town hall and asked for a place where I could take these people, because that day I found more people dying in the street.
The employee of health services brought me to the temple of Kali and showed me the “dormashalah” where the pilgrims used to rest after they worshiped the goddess Kali. The building was empty and he asked me if I wanted it. I was especially glad with the offer for many reasons, but especially because it was the center of prayer for the Hindus.
Within 24 hours we brought our sick and suffering and started the Home for the Dying Destitutes.” (http://www.tisv.be.mt/life.htm) The previous paragraph shows a lot about the type of person Mother Teresa was. Besides being caring she is a determined “go getter” who went to the source and got what she needed. This is what made her such an outstanding leader within her mission as well as the community.
Since the home has been open more than forty thousand men, women, and children, have been helped off the streets of Calcutta. Those who died did so in a kind environment. It was comforting for them to know that they were dying surrounded by the love of God. Despite its dismal name everyone in House Of Dying Destitutes didn’t die. The sisters helped find jobs for those who survived and found homes for them where they could live out the rest of their lives. Today the Missionaries of Charity have made centers all over the world for the sick and dying. (http://www.
tisv.be/mt/life.htm)Mother Teresa also took special interest in the lepers of India. The people of India believed that God as a punishment cast down leprosy upon them. Thusly the lepers were banned from society. (Spink, 92-94) The community met Mother Teresa with great resistance when she spoke out in the support of lepers. Despite the opposition she made villages where lepers could live, work, and be cared for.
She began to raise money for the lepers and in time she had enough to form Shanti Nagar or “The City of Peace”. In Shanti Nagar lepers were cared for in the spirit of Christian Charity. (Rai, 56)Soon Mother Teresa’s work expanded under her watchful eye. The sisters of her mission became active in several other countries such as Venezuela, Italy, Jordan, Tanzania, the United States, and Russia.As her mission spread many other homes were founded helping disadvantaged people from all walks of life.
Mother Teresa once said, “The other day I dreamed that I was at the gates of Heaven. And St. Peter said, ‘Go back to Earth, there are no slums up here’”. (http://www.members.tripod.com) This statement is a prime example of her dedication to her work.
Putting aside her personal ultimate goal of reaching heaven in order to help others. She truly believed that this was her calling and what she was supposed to do for the rest of her life. She believed that her work with the poor brought them miracles from God through her.
Father Harden, executive editor of The Catholic Faith Magazine, talked about Mother Teresa’s message to other people saying, “Mother Teresa’s message is very simple. Be Holy and you will do wonders in the lives of everyone whose lives you touch. Be united with God, and He will work miracles through you, and beyond your wildest dreams”. (http://www.catholic.net) While serving God was certainly reward enough for Mother Teresa, her accomplishments and efforts were recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize. When she was informed that she had won the humble sister said, “I am unworthy”. (Teresa, 64) While she certainly appreciated the honor, Mother Teresa dressed in her white sari requested that there not be a reception after she received the Peace Prize.
She requested that the money intended for the reception be spent on the poor instead. (http://www.tisv.
be/mt/life.htm) Over time the hardworking lifestyle of Mother Teresa began to take its toll. In 1983 Mother Teresa suffered a heart attack, followed by pneumonia. As if that weren’t enough, several problems followed such as congestive heart failure, broken ribs, malaria, blocked blood vessels, and other assorted reoccurring heart troubles. These health problems caused Mother Teresa to step down from the position of Head of the Missionaries of Charity. On March, 13, 1997 Sister Nirmala was elected to take over Mother Teresa’s position. (www.
members.tripod.com)Six months later, on September 5, 1997, Mother Teresa died in the Mother house in Calcutta.
On the morning before she died Mother Teresa spoke of Saint Teresa of Lisieux, the patroness after whom she wished to be renamed. (http://members.tripod.com) Mother Teresa’s body was laid to rest in the Calcutta Headquarters’ of the Missionaries of Charity, her home of many years. (http://www.
tisv.be/mt/life.htm) When discussing or learning about Mother Teresa one must come to the understanding that she lived her life for the simple reason of helping to better the lives of others. She concentrated on helping the sick and poor because they are the ones who are usually neglected. In her lifetime it is difficult to comprehend how she selflessly went above and beyond the call of duty and touched the lives of thousands of complete strangers. She explains her work as affirming her relationship with God through helping the people who are the embodiment of Jesus.
Not only did his improve her standing with God, it gave the less fortunate a fighting chance to survive in the world that neglected them for most of their lives. In simplest terms, Mother Teresa had no boundaries for her love. Reciprocally our love and appreciation of her should be boundless as well. Mother Teresa will be greatly missed but never forgotten for all of the programs and institutions that flourished under her guidance.
Bibliography:Works CitedRai, Raghu. Faith and Compassion: The Life Work Of Mother Teresa. Element Books. New York: 1996. (pages 40 – 83) Spink, Kathryn. Mother Teresa: A CompleteAuthorized Biography. Harp Collins Publisher, Inc.
New York 1998. (pages 70 – 120)Teresa, Mother. Mother Teresa: In My Own Words: 1910 – 1997. Random House Publishing. New York: 1997. (pages 23-85)Vardey, Lucinda. Mother Teresa: A Simple Path.
Ballantine Books, Inc. New York: 1995. (pages 1-35)http://www.tisv.be.me.mt/life.htmhttp://members.tripod.com/jianette/mother.htmlhttp://www.catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/Dossier/nov97/mother.html