MOTHER TERESA (1910–1997)
Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a peacemaker, pioneer, a legend. Her life is best summed up in her own words, “I am a little pencil in God’s hands. He does the thinking .He does the writing. He does everything and sometimes it is really hard because it is a broken pencil and He has to sharpen it a little more. Be a little instrument in His hands so that He can use you anytime, any where .We have only to say ‘Yes’ To God.”
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia, in the former Yugoslavia, she was the youngest of three children. In her teens, Agnes became a member of a youth group in her local Parish called Sodality. Through her involvement with their activities guided by a Jesuit priest, Agnes became interested in missionaries. At age 17, she responded to her first call of a vocation as a Catholic missionary nun. She joined an Irish order, the Sisters of Loretto, a community known for their missionary work in India. When she took her vows as a Sister of Loretto, she chose the name Teresa after Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
She traveled to India and in Calcutta, Sister Teresa taught geography and cathechism at St. Mary’s High School. In 1944, she became the principal of St. Mary’s. Soon Sister Teresa contracted tuberculosis, was unable to continue teaching and was sent to Darjeeling for rest and recuperation. It was on the train to Darjeeling that she received her second call -- “the call within the call”. Mother Teresa recalled later, “I was to leave the convent and work with the poor, living among them. It was an order. I knew where I belonged but I did not know how to get there.”
In August 1948, she left the Loreto Order with the permission of Pope Pius XII, and took as her habit her now famous blue-bordered white sari. She first went to Patna to do a short course in nursing and dispensary work, then joined the Convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor. In December 1948, the first slum school came up in Moti Jhil, run from two rented rooms. She also became an Indian citizen that year. On October 7, 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Holy See to start her own order, “The Missionaries of Charity”, whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after. In 1965 the Society became an International Religious Family by a decree of Pope Paul VI.
Despite poor health, she continued to drive herself hard till the end. The Missionaries of Charity works in 125 countries and has 602 homes and 3,914 Sisters, serving millions of needy people. She died on 5 September 1997. Her funeral attracted eminent personalities like Cardinal Sadano, representing the Pope, Hilary Clinton, Sonia Gandhi and others. Her tomb at the Mother House has become a place of pilgrimage.
Mother Teresa received a number of awards and distinctions, including the Padma Shri (1962), the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1962), the Decree of Praise by Pope Paul VI (1965), the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971), the Nobel Peace Prize (1979), the Bharat Ratna (1980), the Meritorious Citizen of Skopje Certificate and several other awards and honours. After her death she was beatified on 20th October , 2003 by Pope John Paul II and given the title Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
To quote her, “Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart. …The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”