St Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s name at birth was Anjezë (Agnes) Gonxhe Bojaxhiu.
She was born on August 26 1910 in Skopje, North Macedonia and died on September 5 1997 at the age of 87 in Calcutta, India.
She was a Roman Catholic nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity congregation that manages homes for the poorest of the poor. She urges us to do small things with great love.
We celebrate her feast day on September 5 every year in the Catholic Church.
|Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta Biography
|Date of Birth
|August 26 1910
|Place of Birth
|Skopje, North Macedonia
|Catholic Nun and founder of the Missionaries of Charity religious Congregation
|Place of Work
|Date of Death
|September 5 1997
|Place of Death
|By Pope John Paul II on October 19 2003, at Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City
|By Pope Francis on September 4 2016 at Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City
|Patron Saint of
St Mother Teresa of Calcutta Life History
St Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s father was called Nikollë Bojaxhiu and her mother was called Dranafile Bojaxhiu. Mother Teresa was the last born in this family.
Her father was a businessman and a local politician in Albania. He died in 1919 when Mother Teresa was only eight years old.
Mother Teresa was baptized in Skopje, Macedonia immediately after birth and as she would later say, this was her real birthday. She received her First Communion when she was 5 years old and was confirmed in November 1916.
During her early life, she was excited and fascinated by the lives of missionaries who were in Bengal, and by the age of 12 years, she had resolved to live a religious life.
When she was 18 years old, on August 15 1928, while on pilgrimage praying at the shrine of the Black Madonna of Vitina-Letnice, she felt within her this strong force to join religious life.
That year she left home for Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland to join the Sisters of Loreto. From that time she never saw her family again.
After leaving Ireland, she went to Darjeeling, India in 1929 to start her novitiate. She learned Bengali and taught at the nearby St. Teresa’s School.
On May 24 1931, Mother Teresa took her first religious vows and chose the name “Thérèse” of Lisieux. But because another nun in the convent already had that name she chose the name “Teresa” – with the Spanish spelling.
On May 14 1937, Mother Teresa took her solemn vows. She was still a teacher at the Loreto convent school in Entally, eastern Calcutta. She taught in this school for around 20 years and at one time in 1944, she became the headmistress.
While still enjoying teaching at the school, she was constantly troubled by the surrounding poverty in Calcutta, the devastating famine in Bengal in 1943 and the violence brought about by the Muslim-Hindu conflict.
While on a journey by train on September 10 1946, she received the ultimate call within her to serve the poor by staying with them. She was granted permission to leave the school in 1950 and founded the ‘Missionaries of Charity’.
Mother Teresa initially began working with the poor in 1948 with a simple, white cotton sari with a blue border after she replaced her Loreto habit.
She gained Indian citizenship and received basic medical training at Holy Family Hospital. She thereafter plunged herself into serving the poor in the slums of Calcutta where she founded a school and began tending to the poor and hungry.
After a while in 1949, a group of young women joined her and she began the process of founding her religious community of helping the “poorest among the poor”.
Due to limited resources, she begged for food and basic supplies. She was initially caught up between returning to the comfort of the convent and suffering together with the poor people of God in the slums.
Finally, On October 7 1950, the Missionaries of Charity congregation received approval from the Vatican. Mother Teresa stated that the congregation would care for;
- the naked
- the lepers
- the hungry
- the homeless
- the crippled
- the blind
- all those people who feel
- uncared for throughout society,
- people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone”
Members take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and also profess a fourth vow: to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”.
Mother Teresa, with help from Calcutta officials, opened a home providing care for the sick and those terminally ill in 1952.
She rehabilitated an abandoned Hindu temple and turned it into the now Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart.
The poor received treatment and those on the verge of death were given an opportunity to die a dignified death.
She did not discriminate against any faith, colour, or caste. During death, the Hindus were given water from the Ganges, Catholics received the Anointing of the Sick and the Muslims were read the Quran.
Mother Teresa opened another hospice and called it City of Peace (Shanti Nagar) to take care of those with leprosy.
The Missionaries of Charity also established clinics throughout Calcutta to provide food, medication and dressings to those with leprosy.
In 1955, she opened a Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart called Nirmala Shishu Bhavan to take care of orphans and homeless youth.
The Missionaries of Charity began to expand their operations and opened many more hospices, orphanages and leper houses in the rest of India, Asia, Europe, Africa and the United States.
A branch of the Missionaries of Charity congregation was opened for the brothers in 1963 and in 1976 the contemplative branch of the Sisters was founded.
The Corpus Christi Movement for Priests and Missionaries of Charity Fathers were also founded in 1981 and 1984 respectively.
By 1997, the members of the congregation founded by St Mother Teresa of Calcutta had grown to over 4,000 sisters and by 2007, the number had risen worldwide to about 5000 sisters and 450 brothers operating 600 institutions in 120 countries.
Mother Teresa conducted various humanitarian acts outside India like the evacuation of 37 children in Beirut in 1982, that were trapped in a hospital at the war zone between the Israeli army and Palestinian guerrillas. She brokered a temporary ceasefire and together with the Red Cross rescued children.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Death
The journey of Mother Teresa’s declining health began in 1983 when she had a heart attack in Rome while visiting Pope John Paul II and in 1989, she had a second heart attack which made her receive an artificial pacemaker. She developed additional heart problems in 1991 when she contracted pneumonia in Mexico.
She began to feel she was not good enough to continue being the head of the Missionaries of Charity and requested to resign but the sisters voted to retain her as their head and she had no other choice but to agree.
Things got complicated when she fell down in April 1996 and broke her collarbone. Four months later she suffered from malaria and heart failure. On March 13 1997, Mother Teresa resigned from her position as head of the Missionaries of Charity and died on September 5 1997.
Mother Teresa received a state funeral from the Indian Government in recognition of her service to the poor, downtrodden and the sick without discrimination.
A controversial figure during her life and after her death, Mother Teresa was admired by many for her charitable work. She was praised and criticized for her opposition to abortion. Her authorized biography was written by Navin Chawla and published in 1992, and she has been the subject of films and other books.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Awards and Recognitions
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta has received many awards and recognitions from India and around the world. Some of the awards she received are:
- The Padma Shri Award in 1962 by the Indian government
- The Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1969 by the Indian government.
- The Bharat Ratna in 1980 by the Indian government.
- The Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 1962, given for work in South or East Asia.
- The inaugural Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971.
- The Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in 1976 by the Catholic Church.
- Appointed an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia in 1982.
- The Order of Merit in 1983 (A Commonwealth order of merit)
- Honorary citizenship of the United States on November 16 1996.
- The Golden Honour of the Nation in 1994 by Albania
- The International Balzan Prize
- The Albert Schweitzer International Prize in 1975
- The La Storta Medal for Human Service by the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1976
- Honorary Doctor of social science degree in 1987
- The Nobel Peace Prize in 1979
A miracle that was attributed to the intercessions of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta involved the healing of a tumour in the abdomen of an Indian woman named Monica Besra. Besra said that as she was holding the picture of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a beam of light shone from the picture and cured her cancerous tumour.
She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 19 2003, at Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City.
Another miracle was attributed to the intercessions of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It involved, in 2008, the healing of a Brazilian man with multiple brain tumours.
She was canonized by Pope Francis on September 4 2016 at Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City
St Mother Teresa of Calcutta Feast Day
We celebrate her feast day on September 5 every year in the Catholic Church.
St Mother Teresa of Calcutta is the Patron Saint of
- World Youth Day
- Missionaries of Charity
- Archdiocese of Calcutta
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