Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu (born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, Albanian: [aˈɲɛzə ˈɡɔndʒɛ bɔjaˈdʒiu]; 26 August 1910 – 5 September 1997), honoured in the Catholic Church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary. She was born in Skopje (now the capital of North Macedonia), then part of the Kosovo Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire. After living in Skopje for eighteen years, she moved to Ireland and then to India, where she lived for most of her life.
In 1950, Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation that had over 4,500 nuns and was active in 133 countries in 2012. The congregation manages homes for people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. It also runs soup kitchens, dispensaries, mobile clinics, children's and family counselling programmes, as well as orphanages and schools.
Teresa received a number of honors, including the 1962 Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize and the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She was canonised on 4 September 2016, and the anniversary of her death (5 September) is her feast day. Her authorized biography was written by Navin Chawla and published in 1992, and she has been the subject of films and other books. On 6 September 2017, Teresa and St. Francis Xavier were named co-patrons of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta.
Teresa was born Anjezë Gonxhe (or Gonxha)[page needed] Bojaxhiu (Albanian: [aˈɲɛzə ˈɡɔndʒɛ bɔjaˈdʒiu]; Anjezë is a cognate of "Agnes"; Gonxhe means "rosebud" or "little flower" in Albanian) on 26 August 1910 into a Kosovar Albanian family in Skopje, Ottoman Empire (now the capital of North Macedonia). She was baptised in Skopje, the day after her birth.[page needed] She later considered 27 August, the day she was baptised, her "true birthday".
She was the youngest child of Nikollë and Dranafile Bojaxhiu (Bernai). Her father, who was involved in Albanian-community politics in Ottoman Macedonia, died in 1919 when she was eight years old. He was born in Prizren (today in Kosovo), however, his family was from Mirdita (present-day Albania). Her mother may have been from a village near Gjakova.
During this visit to Darjeeling by train, she heard the call of her inner conscience. She felt that she should serve the poor by staying with them. She asked for and received permission to leave the school. In 1950 she founded ‘Missionaries of Charity'. She went out to serve humanity with two saris with a blue border.
Missionaries of Charity
Teresa said, "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." Fluent in five languages – Bengali, Albanian, Serbian, English and Hindi – she made occasional trips outside India for humanitarian reasons.
At the height of the Siege of Beirut in 1982, Teresa rescued 37 children trapped in a front-line hospital by brokering a temporary cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian guerrillas. Accompanied by Red Cross workers, she travelled through the war zone to the hospital to evacuate the young patients.
When Eastern Europe experienced increased openness in the late 1980s, Teresa expanded her efforts to Communist countries which had rejected the Missionaries of Charity. She began dozens of projects, undeterred by criticism of her stands against abortion and divorce: "No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work." She visited Armenia after the 1988 earthquake and met with Nikolai Ryzhkov, Chairman of the Council of Ministers.
Teresa lay in repose in an open casket in St Thomas, Calcutta, for a week before her funeral. She received a state funeral from the Indian government in gratitude for her service to the poor of all religions in the country. Assisted by five priests, Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, the Pope's representative, performed the last rites. Teresa's death was mourned in the secular and religious communities. Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif called her "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." According to former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, "She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world."
Declining health and death
Teresa was first recognised by the Indian government more than a third of a century earlier, receiving the Padma Shri in 1962 and the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1969. She later received other Indian awards, including the Bharat Ratna (India's highest civilian award) in 1980. Teresa's official biography, by Navin Chawla, was published in 1992. In Kolkata, she is worshipped as a deity by some Hindus.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of her birth, the government of India issued a special ₹5 coin (the amount of money Teresa had when she arrived in India) on 28 August 2010. President Pratibha Patil said, "Clad in a white sari with a blue border, she and the sisters of Missionaries of Charity became a symbol of hope to many – the aged, the destitute, the unemployed, the diseased, the terminally ill, and those abandoned by their families."
The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995) who wrote in a 2003 article: "This returns us to the medieval corruption of the church, which sold indulgences to the rich while preaching hellfire and continence to the poor. [Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction." He accused her of hypocrisy for choosing advanced treatment for her heart condition.
Teresa's fame may be partially attributed to Malcolm Muggeridge's 1969 documentary, Something Beautiful for God, and his 1971 book of the same name. Muggeridge was undergoing a spiritual journey of his own at the time. During filming, footage shot in poor lighting (particularly at the Home for the Dying) was thought unlikely to be usable by the crew. In England, the footage was found to be extremely well-lit and Muggeridge called it a miracle of "divine light" from Teresa. Other crew members said that it was due to a new type of ultra-sensitive Kodak film. Muggeridge later converted to Catholicism.
In 1979, Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize "for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitutes a threat to peace". She refused the conventional ceremonial banquet for laureates, asking that its $192,000 cost be given to the poor in India and saying that earthly rewards were important only if they helped her to help the world's needy. When Teresa received the prize she was asked, "What can we do to promote world peace?" She answered, "Go home and love your family." Building on this theme in her Nobel lecture, she said: "Around the world, not only in the poor countries, but I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society – that poverty is so hurtable [sic] and so much, and I find that very difficult." Teresa singled out abortion as "the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child – what is left for me to kill you and you kill me – there is nothing between."
During her lifetime, Teresa was among the top 10 women in the annual Gallup's most admired man and woman poll 18 times, finishing first several times in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1999 she headed Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century, out-polling all other volunteered answers by a wide margin, and was first in all major demographic categories except the very young.
According to a paper by Canadian academics Serge Larivée, Geneviève Chénard and Carole Sénéchal, Teresa's clinics received millions of dollars in donations but lacked medical care, systematic diagnosis, necessary nutrition and sufficient analgesics for those in pain; in the opinion of the three academics, "Mother Teresa believed the sick must suffer like Christ on the cross". It was said that the additional money might have transformed the health of the city's poor by creating advanced palliative care facilities.
Analysing her deeds and achievements, Pope John Paul II said: "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." Privately, Teresa experienced doubts and struggle in her religious beliefs which lasted nearly 50 years until the end of her life. Teresa expressed grave doubts about God's existence and pain over her lack of faith: Other saints (including Teresa's namesake Thérèse of Lisieux, who called it a "night of nothingness") had similar experiences of spiritual dryness. According to James Langford, these doubts were typical and would not be an impediment to canonisation.
In April 1996 she fell, breaking her collarbone, and four months later she had malaria and heart failure. Although Teresa had heart surgery, her health was clearly declining. According to Archbishop of Calcutta Henry Sebastian D'Souza, he ordered a priest to perform an exorcism (with her permission) when she was first hospitalized with cardiac problems because he thought she might be under attack by the devil.
On 13 March 1997 Teresa resigned as head of the Missionaries of Charity, and she died on 5 September. At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters and an associated brotherhood of 300 members operating 610 missions in 123 countries.
On 10 September 1946, Teresa experienced what she later described as "the call within the call" when she traveled by train to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling from Calcutta for her annual retreat. "I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith." Joseph Langford later wrote, "Though no one knew it at the time, Sister Teresa had just become Mother Teresa".
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. Responding to requests by many priests, in 1981 Mother Teresa founded the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests and with Joseph Langford the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in 1984, to combine the vocational aims of the Missionaries of Charity with the resources of the priesthood.
By 1997, the 13-member Calcutta congregation had grown to more than 4,000 sisters who managed orphanages, AIDS hospices and charity centers worldwide, caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless and victims of floods, epidemics and famine. By 2007, the Missionaries of Charity numbered about 450 brothers and 5,000 sisters worldwide, operating 600 missions, schools and shelters in 120 countries.
Memorial house of Mother Teresa in her native Skopje
On 10 September 1946, Teresa experienced what she later described as "the call within the call" when she traveled by train to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling from Calcutta. "I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. To fail would have been to break the faith." Joseph Langford wrote, "Though no one knew it, Sister Teresa had just become Mother Teresa".
Teresa received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding, given for work in South or East Asia, in 1962. According to its citation, "The Board of Trustees recognises her merciful cognisance of the abject poor of a foreign land, in whose service she has led a new congregation". By the early 1970s, she was an international celebrity.
muh·dhuh tuh·ree·suh (Indian English)
muh·thr tr·ee·suh (American English)
President Ronald Reagan presents Mother Teresa with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony as First Lady looks on, 20 June 1985
Missionaries of Charity in traditional saris
Missionaries of Charity motherhouse, Kolkatta
Mother Teresa with Michelle Duvalier in Jan 1981
Plaque dedicated to Mother Teresa in Wenceslas Square, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Ottoman subject (1910–1912)
Serbian subject (1912–1915)
Bulgarian subject (1915–1918)
Yugoslavian subject (1918–1943)
Yugoslavian citizen (1943–1948)
Indian subject (1948–1950)
Indian citizen (1950–1997)
Albanian citizen (1991–1997)
honorary American citizenship (awarded 1996)
Recognition and reception
After ten years of doubt, Teresa described a brief period of renewed faith. After Pope Pius XII's death in 1958, she was praying for him at a requiem mass when she was relieved of "the long darkness: that strange suffering." However, five weeks later her spiritual dryness returned.
However, the correspondence has been compiled in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. Teresa wrote to spiritual confidant Michael van der Peet, "Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see – listen and do not hear – the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak. ... I want you to pray for me – that I let Him have [a] free hand."
In Deus caritas est (his first encyclical), Pope Benedict XVI mentioned Teresa three times and used her life to clarify one of the encyclical's main points: "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." She wrote, "It is only by mental prayer and spiritual reading that we can cultivate the gift of prayer."
Although her order was not connected with the Franciscan orders, Teresa admired Francis of Assisi and was influenced by Franciscan spirituality. The Sisters of Charity recite the prayer of Saint Francis every morning at Mass during the thanksgiving after Communion, and their emphasis on ministry and many of their vows are similar. Francis emphasised poverty, chastity, obedience and submission to Christ. He devoted much of his life to serving the poor, particularly lepers.