There are people with the ability to inspire us and bring out the best version of ourselves: Teresa of Calcutta was one of them. This Catholic nun of Albanian origin was the founder of the Missionaries of Charity congregation and she dedicated more than 45 years of her life to caring for the poor, sick and orphans around the world. An example of kindness, selflessness, generosity and human sensitivity, whose story every child should know.
Teresa of Calcutta’s childhood: Her beginnings in religion
Teresa of Calcutta, whose original name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, was born on August 26, 1910 in Uskub, now Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia, to a wealthy family. She was the youngest of her siblings and she enjoyed a beautiful childhood until the sudden and mysterious death of her father, when she was only eight years old. From then on, the family had to implement many lifestyle changes.
Agnes’s mother decided to educate her within the Catholic religion. In this way, she attended the state school and in her free time, she participated as a soprano in her parish choir. From an early age she became part of a Marian congregation and became interested in the stories of the Jesuit missionaries and her work in Bengal. By age twelve, Agnes was convinced that she was going to devote herself to religion, but she did not make the final decision until later while she was praying in a chapel.
Thus, at the age of 18, he entered the Abbey of Loreto, in Ireland, and shortly after he moved to Calcutta, where he began his novitiate and learned Bengali. There she made her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a nun and she worked for nearly 20 years as a history and geography teacher at the Loreto convent school where she later became principal. And there she too was where she chose to be called Teresa, in honor of Teresa of Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries. However, although she enjoyed teaching at the school, she soon began to focus her attention on another subject that made a deep impression on her: poverty.
The missionary of the poor finds the meaning of her life
The poverty and misery that little by little was flooding Calcutta, penetrated very deeply into Teresa, who soon realized what the meaning of her life was: to bring the love of God to the poorest. Thus, determined to abandon the order and give herself completely to the cause of the needy, Teresa of Calcutta requested permission from Pius XII and left to fulfill her purpose. She started in India, where a long struggle led by Gandhi had only recently ended, but she quickly spread her help around the world.
she opened a school in Calcutta and began working to serve the needs of the destitute and hungry. The beginnings were hard. Teresa told her that at first she had no income and she was forced to ask for donations, during that time she felt very lonely and she was tempted to return to the convent. However, she soon had the collaboration of a group of young women who returned her motivation.
It was precisely these women who later laid the foundations for the new religious community created by Teresa of Calcutta: the Missionaries of Charity, which was later recognized as a pontifical congregation by Rome and the Vatican. Initially it had only thirteen members in Calcutta, but over time it grew to more than four thousand members from hospices, orphanages and AIDS centers around the world. Its goal: to care for and help the blind, disabled, elderly, poor, homeless, and victims of epidemics, famines, or environmental catastrophes.
In 1952, the congregation opened the first home for the dying in Calcutta and quickly spread to other countries including Tanzania, Austria, and much of Africa, Europe, Asia, and the United States. By the end of Teresa of Calcutta’s days, the order had 610 missions in 123 countries and collaborated with nearly 450 centers around the world, including counseling programs for families and children, schools, soup kitchens, and homes for people with disabilities. diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy or AIDS.
The last days of Mother Teresa of Calcutta
In the 1980s, Teresa of Calcutta managed to take her mission to countries that had previously ignored the Missionaries of Charity and embarked on new projects always with the purpose of helping those in need. It is said that in 1982, after the siege of Beirut, Teresa of Calcutta, together with the Red Cross, rescued 37 children who were trapped in a hospital after negotiating a ceasefire with the Palestinian guerrillas and the Israeli army.
Thanks to her hard work and selfless work, she was decorated with numerous honors throughout the world. She received the “Bharat Ratna” award, the highest decoration given to a civilian in India, as well as the “Order of Merit in the United Kingdom and honorary citizenship in the United States. Her native country awarded her the “Golden Honor of the Nation” and she received the “Balzan” international award for promoting humanity, peace and brotherhood among peoples. Although without a doubt, one of her most important was the “Nobel Peace Prize”, which was awarded to her in 1979.
Despite her tireless energy and dedicated effort, little by little Teresa of Calcutta’s health began to deteriorate at an accelerating rate. In all those years, she continued her work at the head of the order and continued to selflessly help those who needed it most. However, at the end of her 87 years, her health was already very delicate and she passed away on September 5, 1997. After her death, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was beatified and canonized by the Holy See.