Mother Teresa was a wonderful woman and a great influence on the world today. She was born in 1910 in Macedonia with the name Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She was born into a family of deeply religious Catholics. Agnes felt she got the calling to work for God at the young age of fourteen. She joined the Loreto order and went to Bengal, India, to start her studies. In 1937, Agnes took her final vows to become a nun and has done much great work in the world since. Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on August 27, 1910 to Nikola and Drana Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia. Drana and Nikola were Albanian and both were very deeply religious Roman Catholics. Nikola was a popular merchant and a partner to an Italian merchant. He owned several houses and was a member of the Skopje town council. Whenever Agnes’ father would return from a trip, he would always bring his children presents. Also, he promoted his daughters’ education, which was uncommon in that time period. Nikola also was involved in an underground organization that worked to gain independence for the Albanians from the Ottoman Turks, who ruled Macedonia around the time Agnes was born. Agnes grew up around much fighting.
When she was born, there were Albanian protests against the Turkish government. When she was two, she witnessed the First Balkan War. In that war, the Ottomans were defeated, but Macedonia was divided among the conquerors: Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegero, and Serbia. The city of Skopje was distributed to Serbia. Albania received its independence in 1912, but Nikola continued his nationalist work. He joined a movement determined to incorporate Serbia into the Albanian nation. In 1914, when Agnes was only four years old, World War I began. In 1918, her father was killed. Some people believe that he was poisoned by enemies. Many people mourned his death because of his kindness and generosity. Drana Bojaxhiu and the family were left with little money and no means of income. Drana worked hard to provide for her family. To get enough money, she became a dressmaker. Even though she had to work extra hard to make ends meet, Drana still found time and money to give to the lonely. When Agnes was young, she used to go on trips with her mother to visit the elderly, sick, and the poor. It is said that their mother’s generosity may have had the greatest influence on Agnes, her sister, and her brother.
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Agnes was the youngest of the three children. Her older brother was named Lazar and her older sister was Aga. Aga was five years older than Agnes. Agnes loved reading books, saying prayers, and thinking. She also liked to sing and write poems about her faith. Agnes learned her faith from her mother. There was a sign in the front room of their house that read: “In this house, no one must speak against another.” Drana passed down to her children many values. She believed that the Lord’s work was reward enough in itself and that you should serve God in a practical, helpful way. Agnes had thought about being a teacher when she was younger, but at the age of twelve, she knew she wanted to lead a religious life. When Agnes was only fourteen, she knew she wanted to be a missionary nun. At age eighteen, Agnes joined the Loreto order of nuns. In September of 1928, she left her family and everything she knew to serve God at the Loreto Abbey in Dublin Ireland. There, she learned how to speak English. In November, she went to India to teach English in an Indian school. In 1929, Agnes started her novitiate in an Abbey in Darjeeling, and abbey in the foothills of the Himalayas.
A novitiate is the 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 after St. Therese, the patron saint of missionaries. On May 14, 1937, Teresa took her final vows, promising to serve God for the rest of her life. Teresa eventually became the principal of Loreto Entally, a school in Entally (a district of Calcutta) where she taught history and geography. Everyday, Teresa would look out of the convent to the streets of Calcutta. She longed to help the starving and dying people on the streets. She wasn’t allowed to because the Loreto order of nuns had a rule that the nuns couldn’t leave the convent unless they were seriously ill. In August, 1946, Sister Teresa could stand it no longer. A four-day riot broke out in Calcutta between the Muslims and the Hindus. Because of this, food delivery was stopped. Sister Teresa went out to find food for her hundreds of students. In the riot, 5000 Calcuttans were killed and an additional 15000 were injured. She met some soldiers who gave her some bags of food. They warned her to stay off the streets, but she would soon experience another call from God.
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On September 10, 1946, Sister Teresa experienced “a call within a call” on an annual retreat. She was convinced that God wanted her to reach out to the poor. She said, “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail it would have been to break the faith.” In 1947, Sister Teresa was granted permission to leave the Loreto order of nuns. On August 16, 1948, Sister Teresa set out on the dirty streets of Calcutta wearing a simple cotton sari decorated with a blue border. Eventually, her organization would adopt this outfit as their habit. Leaving the Loreto Abbey was very hard for Sister Teresa. She says that that was one of the greatest sacrifices she had ever made. The sisters at the Abbey were her only friends and companions and she was leaving them all behind. Before she went out to the slums of Calcutta, she went to Patna, a city 250 miles from Calcutta, to learn medical skills from Mother Anna Dengel. In Patna, the Medical Missionary Sisters took Sister Teresa in immediately and took her with them when 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.
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In Patna, Sister Teresa learned how to deliver babies, fix broken bones, and she became aware of many common diseases and illnesses. The sisters found that she was a natural at caring for people, and within three months, Sister Teresa set out to help the poor of Calcutta. In Calcutta, she got in touch will Father Van Exem, who would help her find a place to stay. Father arranged for Sister Teresa to stay at St. Joseph’s Home, where a group of nuns called the Little Sisters of the Poor welcomed her gladly. It was hard for Sister Teresa to know where to start helping in such a large city as Calcutta. She began by helping the Little Sisters of the Poor work with elderly people. On December 21, 1948, Sister Teresa finally set out on the streets of Calcutta to start her mission from God. She walked out into the city with a packed lunch, but nothing else. She had no money, materials, or companions. The first place Sister Teresa decided to go was the slum that she could see from outside her window while teaching in the Loreto convent called Motijhil. She decided to start a school there. On the first day, five children showed up for class. There were no desks, books, or chalkboards, but Sister Teresa still managed to teach.
She started by teaching the alphabet. Soon, the number of students was almost forty. With Sister Teresa’s help, the students learned not only about language and numbers, but also they learned about personal hygiene and cleanliness. Through her students, Sister Teresa met many families of Calcutta and also learned about the poor amount of medical care. Many of these families had no income because the man of the house had been stricken with disease. In Calcutta, thousands of people died each year because they weren’t able to get medical care. The amount of poverty in Calcutta grew, and Sister Teresa knew she had to do something more. Since she did not have any money, Sister Teresa gave herself and all of her attention and energy to the poor. She walked around the streets each day looking for places she could help. The work would exhaust her, but each day she kept on going. Sister Teresa had such a love and a compassion for God, people, and her work that she would help even the people who nobody else would go near. She was tempted each night to go back to the easy life at Loreto, but she prayed to God for help to get through it all. In March 1949, Sister Teresa received a visitor at St.
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Joseph’s. It was one of her students from Entally. She had come because she could not forget her kind and generous teacher and principle, and wanted to join Sister Teresa and work for the poor of Calcutta. Soon after, Magdalena Gomes came to Sister Teresa to help too. The three of them would go out onto the streets of Calcutta each day, not knowing what to expect. By the end of that year, eight other young girls had joined Sister Teresa to help fight against poverty. Also in 1949, Sister Teresa decided to become an Indian citizen, demonstrating her dedication to Calcutta’s poor. On October 7, 1950, Cardinal Pietro Fumosoni-Biondi, head of the office for the Propagation of the Faith, sanctioned Sister Teresa’s order, making her Mother Teresa. The new order was called the Missionaries of Charity. It grew steadily in number, while helping the poorest of the poor. Mother Teresa encouraged all of the nuns to treat all of the poor like a gift from God. She made sure that they always treated the patients with respect, warmth, and kindness.
By the middle of 1953, the Missionaries of Charities moved to a new residence that was big enough to house the growing number of nuns joining. Mother Teresa refused to have the name Reverend Mother Teresa because she would never set herself above anyone else. In 1954, Mother Teresa was given an unused building where she could help the dying of Calcutta. The old building was transformed into the Place of the Immaculate Heart. The building could hold 120 people at one time. This building was made a place where the terminally ill could go to die in dignity, instead of out on the streets. Each morning, Mother Teresa and the nuns would search the streets for dying people. The people were treated as angels and were loved and cared for until their death and ever after. When a woman with children died, as happened often, the sisters would take care of the children. Often on their morning walks, the nuns would find abandoned babies. They also took them in and cared for them. In 1955, Mother Teresa opened up the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart. It was a two-story building that gave shelter to children with no place to go. The sisters helped care for malnourished and dying babies as well as relatively healthy ones.
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In addition to housing many dying children, the Missionaries of Charity set up a food bank for the hungry of Calcutta. The Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart also became a place where teen-age girls to go who had lost their families’ support and may have turned to prostitution. The girls often helped out by taking care of the children. The young teens were taught useful skills such as sewing and typing so they would be able to support themselves. Mother Teresa received much criticism for wasting money on the dead and the dying, but she still kept on with her work. Mother Teresa not only had a compassion for he poor and dying, but also for the victims of leprosy. In 1957, about 30,000 lepers lived in Calcutta. Most of them were cast out from society and even their families. They were unable to find an employer who would hire them. Mother Teresa found yet another group of people that needed compassion, the lepers, and she was willing to give it. She was determined to find medical care for them. The Missionaries of Charity set up many clinics where people could go to get medicine, disinfectant, bandages, and other necessary supplies. The sisters opened up a rehabilitation clinic for the lepers.
One of Mother Teresa’s biggest achievements for the lepers was helping establish the 35 acre Town of Peace, a rehabilitating community for them. In the early 1960s, the Missionaries of Charity started forming groups that would travel to different parts of India. Homes were set up in Delhi, Jhansi, Agra, Patna, and other places. By 1962, there were 119 members of the Missionaries of Charity. Over 30 centers outside of Calcutta had been opened with the help of many contributions. Mother Teresa traveled to the United States in 1960 and spoke in Las Vegas, Nevada. There, she received hundreds of donations for her work. Mother Teresa also traveled to Illinois, Washington DC, and New York collecting donations and meeting many people along the way. After Mother Teresa left the United States, she journeyed to England, Germany, and Rome. This trip gave many new ideas to Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa thought it would be a great idea to get some men involved to do the same type of work as the sisters were doing. So, on March 25, 1963, twelve men went to live at the Home of the Immaculate Heart to start studying to prepare themselves for the missionary work. These men were headed by Brother Andrew, who later took the name of General Servant, and called the Missionary Brothers of Charity.
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Mother Teresa was able to buy them a small home where their headquarters would be located. The brothers went into the areas of Calcutta that were hard for the sisters to access and ran the men’s ward at the Home for the Dying. In no time at all, the brothers’ numbers grew. Soon, there were 44 houses around the world. In February of 1965, the Missionaries of Charity had been granted permission to work outside of India by the Pope because of the Second Vatican Council. This meant that Mother Teresa, with her 300 sisters, could help all the poor of the world. Their first home outside of India would be in Venezuela. In Cocorote, Mother Teresa began her work. She was determined to help the women and children. There was a shortage of food, clothing, and medical care. Men usually took more than one wife, regardless if they could support their families or not. It was Mother Teresa’s goal to educate the women so that they could support themselves and their children. Mother Teresa and the other sisters in Cocorote fixed up an old ruined hotel that they planned to use as their headquarters. It had been previously used as a dump and was very hard to renovate. The Missionaries soon had the hotel up and running and they taught the women how to type and sew.
They also taught elementary school to the children and anyone who wanted to learn. In the 1960s and 1970s, over ten new houses were opened for the Missionaries of Charity in South America. In 1968, Mother Teresa was given a special request from the Pope. Pope Paul VI requested that Mother Teresa open a house in Rome. With virtually no hesitation, Mother Teresa brought the sisters to the poor outskirts of Rome. The people there had no electricity, heat, or running water. Mother Teresa was willing to establish a home in Rome for these poor people. She also received an invitation to go to Tanzania in September of 1968. The buildings there were renovated for “our people,” the term Mother Teresa used instead of calling the people poor. Old people’s homes were established there, as well as nurseries and medical supply rooms. Abandoned children received care and the blind and sick were fed and bathed. In 1969, Mother Teresa, with help from Ann Blaikie, formed the International Association of the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa for lay people who wanted to help out in her organization. The members of this organization had no requirements. They didn’t have to be Catholic or even religious to join.
It was just people who wanted to help other people. The Co-Workers also agree to live as simply as they can, just like the Missionaries of Charity do. When sick people wanted to become part of her work, Mother Teresa started a group called the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers. By 1985, there were over 2,600 members of the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers. For all of her tremendous efforts, Mother Teresa received the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize from Pope Paul VI. In 1971 he praised her for her hard work with the poor and for her efforts to make peace. Along with a small statue of Jesus Christ, the Pope awarded her about $67,000 to use in her works. In 1971, Mother Teresa took her work to the United States. First, she went to the Bronx in New York. There, she helped the children, the lonely, the sick, and the unwanted. Groups of sisters went into some developments to visit shut-ins, clean houses, get the groceries, and listen to the elderly people. To try to keep the children off the streets, the sisters organized a camp program with art, crafts, sports, and other activities that were free. The programs were held everyday on the school grounds of a school in the Bronx. The Missionaries’ work in the Bronx was only a beginning to a long line of work done in the United States.
In October of 1971, Mother Teresa was given the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation Award by the Kennedy family. She was presented with a check for $12,000. She put the money straight into a fund for the disabled and retarded children. Mother Teresa was commended for her ability to recognize the needs of so many people and to be able to provide help with so little supplies and luxuries. Although Mother Teresa was getting old and fragile, she would not stop helping people. There was still much that needed to be done. In 1971, Mother Teresa turned 61, but she wasn’t about to even think about retiring. In 1972, Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity ventured to Bangladesh. There was terrible devastation in Bangladesh. Food was scarce in the villages and many people were starving. Many women had been raped and were treated as outcasts and abandoned by their families. These women had no place to go, that is, until Mother Teresa arrived. The Missionaries of Charity would hide the women from men who wanted to rape them. They also set up adoptions for the unwanted babies and buried the dead and tended to the wounds of the living. Four centers were established in Bangladesh. Because of all the work around the world, Mother Teresa was getting publicity.
She didn’t like it, but if she was able to tell the world about her mission, she would do it. In 1973, Mother Teresa was given the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. In the years to follow, Mother Teresa built many more houses for the poor and needy. She also traveled around the world and spoke to many people. Mother Teresa has never turned down an invitation to work with the poor in any country. In the coarse of her mission, Mother Teresa received many awards. Perhaps one of the most prestigious of these was the Nobel Peace Prize. On December 9, 1979, Mother Teresa was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize in a glorious atmosphere of beautiful flowers and cheering people. Along with the award, she was presented with $190,000. She received the prize for her outstanding work with the poor and her overall love for people. In her acceptance speech, she stressed the need for people to love each other. Three months after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa was presented with India’s greatest award, the Bharat Ratna, or the Jewel of India. Mother Teresa’s work in the United States grew and by 1984, she had established 19 houses to help the poor and homeless in America.
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan awarded Mother Teresa with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In the following years Mother Teresa worked as hard as she ever had, despite her age. She gave talks about pro-life and worked with AIDS victims of the world. Mother Teresa would give of her whole self all the way up until 1997. Mother Teresa died of cardiac arrest on the morning of September 5, 1997 at the age of 87. She was buried on Saturday the 13th of September, 1997. Many people attended her funeral to bid her farewell and to pray for her. Mother Teresa was a wonderful women. She gave everything she had to serve God and the people of the world. She will be remembered forever for her contributions to the poor and the homeless. I feel that Mother Teresa made a wondrous contribution to the world. What more can you give to the world than yourself? The answer to that question is nothing. Mother Teresa gave the most you can give to anyone or anything. She gave her love, compassion, and all of her efforts to the world. She worked for the good of all mankind. Race and religion didn’t matter to her, she just wanted to help. I think it is amazing how much one woman can do. I think Mother Teresa is the best example of the effects one woman can have on the world.
She started out by serving God in a convent and teaching children who had enough money to be sent to school. She pleaded with the Pope to let her leave her order to start a new one, and her pleas were answered. She was able to leave the order. From there, Mother Teresa touched people’s lives all around the world. She worked in the slums of Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, and North America. This single woman started out an order of nuns, an order of brothers, a group for lay people, houses and programs for poor and starving children, women, and men. Perhaps one of the biggest things she did was inspire so many other people to do what she was doing, to help and love other people. I believe that Mother Teresa was given a very special gift by God. She was given the gift of love. She was able to show love for all types of people, no matter the race or religion. She was only interested in helping people. Mother Teresa helped the people that nobody else would even touch. She loved the outcasts and the people who had terrible diseases. Mother Teresa loved people so much that she gave up all of her luxuries and comforts and the world that she knew to go help the poorest of the poor.
She believed that to be able to truly understand the needs of the poor, you had to live with the poor. Mother Teresa inspired so many people. Because of her efforts, many of the people who had gotten no attention before, had not even been given any help, received help. All over the world, people have been positively affected by Mother Teresa’s devotion to the poor. I would never be able to give of myself like she did. I don’t think many people could ever say that they could do what she did. It takes a special person to be able to do that type of work, and Mother Teresa responded to God’s calling to serve the people, and has served so many people. Mother Teresa’s love and generosity still lives on today and will always live on. Even though Mother Teresa is in heaven now, her work still lives on here on Earth. All of the many foundations she started are still being run by the Missionaries of Charity, the Missionary Brothers of Charity, the Co-Workers of the Missionaries of Charity, and all of the people she has inspired. Mother Teresa has inspired people to donate their time and money to the poor people. Even if they don’t give themselves totally as Mother Teresa did, they still want to help needy people. I feel that Mother Teresa will live on in the hearts of the people she helped as well as many other people. Mother Teresa had a tremendous effect on our world and I think she deserves much honor and praise for her work. Mother Teresa is a wonderful role-model for anyone. She has literally helped people all over the world. In a world so hateful and dishonest, a person like Mother Teresa is a rare occurrence. Overall, Mother Teresa was a wonderful person who helped the world a great deal
Bibliography Clucas, Joan Graff. Mother Teresa. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988. Egan, Eileen. Such a Vision of the Street. New York: Doubleday, 1985. “Mother Teresa.” Encarta. 1997-2000. Muggeridge, Malcolm. Something Beautiful for God. New York: Image Books, 1977. Mukherjee, Bharati. “Mother Teresa.” Time June 14, 1999: 88-90. Playfoot, Janet N. “My Life for the Poor: Mother Teresa of Calcutta.” The Great American Bathroom Book, vol 1. Stevens W. Anderson. Salt Lake City: Compact Classics Inc., 1991. Serrou, Robert. Teresa of Calcutta. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981. Spink, Kathryn. The Miracle of Love. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981.