Baptized as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu; Albanian), Mother Teresa was the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity. She devoted her life to serving ‘the poorest of the poor’, and helped to spread the message of love across the world. Considered as one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century, she was canonized as a saint on September 4, 2016.
She received all kinds of praises and recognition, one of which was the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. But people today remember her most for her charitable work, and her efforts in reminding people about their responsibility to ‘love the unloved’.
Mother Teresa: Earlier Life
Born to parents Nikollë (Nikola) and Dranafile Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910, her birth name Anjezë ‘Agnes’ Gonxhe meant “rosebud” or “little flower” in Albanian.
She was baptized the day after, on August 27, which she considers her ‘true birthday’. Agnes was exposed early on to a life of compassion and service through her mother. She also became fascinated by the works of Bengal missionaries.
Unfortunately, she experienced an early loss when her father died when she was but eight years old. It was at the age of 12 that she felt a call to charity. Her resolve was strengthened after she prayed at the shrine of the Black Madonna.
So in 1928 at the tender age of 18, Agnes left her family to become a nun and join the Sisters of Loreto in Dublin. This is where she would learn English as well as begin her training as a missionary. A year later, she would be sent to Darjeeling, in the lower Himalayas, where she would learn Bengali and teach at St. Teresa’s School near her convent.
Agnes took her first religious vows on May 1931. She wanted to be named after the patron saint of missionaries, Thérèse de Lisieux, but decided instead on its Spanish spelling, Teresa. While still a teacher at the Loreto convent school in Entally, eastern Calcutta, Teresa took her Final Profession of Vows on May 1937. As was custom, she took on the title of “Mother”, becoming known today as the beloved Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa: Later Works and Life
Mother Teresa stayed and served in Saint Mary’s High School for Girls in Calcutta for almost 20 years. In 1944, she became the school’s headmistress. She saw education as a way for them to improve their situations. However, she became more and more aware of the desolate situation in Calcutta, especially during the Bengal famine of 1943.
In September 1946, Mother Teresa experienced something that would ultimately change her life forever. She later described it as “the call within the call”. During her train travel for a retreat, she believed that Christ spoke to her, telling her to work instead to help Calcutta’s poorest and sickest people.
However, this call would require her to abandon her teaching and her convent. After a year of seeking official permission, she was finally granted approval. In August of 1948, Mother Teresa exchanged her traditional Loreto habit with a simple, white cotton sari with a blue border.
After just six months of basic medical training, she went to the slums to answer her calling of ‘loving the unloved’. In October 1950, Mother Teresa won canonical recognition for the Missionaries of Charity, which would help her in her mission. Today, the Missionaries of Charity boasts of thousands of members, with hundreds of foundations in 123 countries.
Mother Teresa finally rested on September 5, 1997, at the age of 87, after years of service to humanity. Her work and unfaltering love for the poor is indeed an inspiration to all. Learn from her wisdom with these Mother Teresa quotes.
30 Mother Teresa Quotes on Service, Life, and Love