With the world meting out criticism and discouragement faster than you can say “charity”, those truly seeking to serve the destitute find themselves pitched against great odds. It takes faith, will, resilience and will of the strength of steel to be able to mobilize the resources required to make an impact in the lives of even a small section of a community.
Mother Teresa is the epitome of selflessness for many, and her journey to success in helping masses is nothing short of an adventure with her dedication for her cause and her faith in God being constantly tested. Her mettle proved too strong to bow down to criticism, censure and maltreatment, and she remains to be the symbol of hope and charity more than a decade after her demise.
With distrust being rampant among people, it is comprehensible that members of social service groups are initially met with apathy and even coldness. The true test of such a volunteer or social service agent is the period of having his subjects warming up to him. One must not be easily dejected and be persistent in efforts to meet with success, and this is a fact that stands true for all human beings.
Mother Teresa Life Story
Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on 26 August1910, in Albania. However, this highly religious nun had announced that she considered 27 August, the day she was baptized to her true day of birth. Raised a Roman Catholic, Agnes was a religious girl who found happiness and peace in spending time at places of worship, and was fascinated with the work of missionaries in India. The young girl heard her calling at the age of 18, when she was praying at the shrine of the Black Madonna of Letnice, a pilgrimage she frequently embarked on.
In August 1928, Agnes left her family to join the Sisters of Loreto as a missionary, and she never contacted her mother or sister once after she answered the calling of God. With the intent of becoming a missionary in India, Agnes studied English, the subject that missionaries taught school children in India, and arrived in Darjeeling, India, in 1929. She took her vows as a nun in 1931, and chose to be named after Therese de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries. She opted to pick the Spanish spelling of the name, Teresa, as another nun had also sought to be named after the patron saint.
She served as a teacher in Loreto Convent in Entally, East Calcutta, for almost 20 years, and had even served as the headmistress for a few years. It was during her stay at the convent that the stage was set for Sister Teresa to become Mother Teresa. The Sister was deeply disturbed by the sights of the poor and the destitute through the windows of the convent, and sought permission to leave the convent to work amidst the poor to help alleviate their troubles.
Having received the permission for the same and in 1948 left the convent to start her missionary work in the slums of Calcutta. He first received basic medical education in Patna and traded her habit for a white cotton sari with a blue border. Her service is today the greatest examples of service to mankind, and here are a couple of anecdotes that justify this pedestal given to her. It has been recorded that Mother Teresa, a few years after she set up Home For The Dying, came across a leper who was clearly dying, buried under a pile of garbage, with flies and rats feasting on his seemingly numb body. Unmindful of the stench or the condition of the man, Mother Teresa pulled personally pulled him out from beneath the pile of garbage, took him to her Home, bathed him, dressed him in fresh clothes and fed him. The man died soon afterwards, but with a satisfied smile on his face.
Teresa, at the onset of her missionary work, had to beg for food for her wards due to the lack of funds. She had started her work by launching a school of the poor children residing in the slum, and begged for food for them. When she approached a grocer for a loaf of bread so as to feed the kids, the grocer spat on her face and shooed her away. She humbly stood her ground and said she had accepted his gift to her, and would be obliged if he kindly donated a loaf of bread for her kids. Shaken by this statement, the grocer is said to have had a change of heart, and voluntarily sent a bag of rice to the orphanage every day.
Mother Teresa selflessly served all those who were otherwise met with disgust and felt unwanted and unloved, a condition that according to this great woman was more painful than any physical trauma that a person could be subjected to. Teresa’s work was recognized by a multitude of awards from various quarters.
However, criticism was not far behind. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries developed to be a network of more than 517 branches in more than a 100 countries across 4 continents, and she was accused to being business-minded. She was also accused of imposing Christianity of those who approached to her missionaries for help, even though she facilitated the last rites of a patient in confirmation to their religious beliefs.
Apart from teaching millions to be a bastion of hope for the destitute and being an example of selfless service, she also teaches one to be unmindful of allegations levied against you. You only need to justify yourself to the Almighty, and as long as you possess a clear conscience and know you have done no wrong, the world can babble to its heart’s content and you don’t need to lose sleep over it. Another admirable quality of Mother Teresa is the fact that though she lost her own faith in the existence of God during the autumn of her life, she did not allow it to interfere with her work and continued to serve the people. You must keep personal troubles from interfering with all spheres of your life in order to progress.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Who is Mother Theresa? - Short Biography
Mother Teresa, also known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, was a Catholic nun and missionary who devoted her life to serving the poor and sick. She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Ottoman Empire (now in North Macedonia) on August 26, 1910.
Mother Teresa joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish congregation of nuns, in 1928 and was sent to Calcutta, India to teach at a girls' school. It was there that she experienced a calling to serve the poor and sick, and in 1948, she received permission from her religious superiors to leave the convent and work with the poor in Calcutta's slums.
Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor, in 1950. The congregation, which began with only a handful of members, eventually grew to thousands of sisters working in over 130 countries.
Throughout her life, Mother Teresa was known for her selfless service to the poor, her compassion, and her strong faith. She was honored with numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal in the United States and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997, in Calcutta. She was beatified by the Catholic Church in 2003 and canonized as a saint in 2016. She is remembered as one of the most influential and respected humanitarians of the 20th century and continues to be an inspiration to many.
Mother Theresa Fast Facts
* Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Ottoman Empire (now in North Macedonia).
* She joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish congregation of nuns, in 1928 and was sent to Calcutta, India to teach at a girls' school.
* In 1948, she received permission from her religious superiors to leave the convent and work with the poor in Calcutta's slums.
* In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor.
* The congregation, which began with only a handful of members, eventually grew to thousands of sisters working in over 130 countries.
* Mother Teresa was known for her selfless service to the poor, her compassion, and her strong faith.
* She was honored with numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal in the United States, and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
* She was beatified by the Catholic Church in 2003, and canonized as a saint in 2016.
* Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997, in Calcutta.
* She is remembered as one of the most influential and respected humanitarians of the 20th century and continues to be an inspiration to many.
* She was of Albanian descent, her parents were both Albanians and she grew up speaking Albanian language.
* She was canonized as a Saint in 2016 by Pope Francis.
Mother Teresa Life Highlights
Early Life and Calling (1910-1937)
Mother Teresa, originally named Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, was born on August 26, 1910, into a Kosovar Albanian family in Skopje, Ottoman Empire (now North Macedonia). Baptized the day after her birth, she later considered August 27 as her "true birthday." She was the youngest child of Nikollë and Dranafile Bojaxhiu. Her father was involved in Albanian-community politics and died when she was eight years old. Her fascination with missionary stories led her to commit to religious life at age 12. She left for Ireland in 1928 to join the Sisters of Loreto and learn English to become a missionary.
Missionary Work and Formation (1937-1950)
In 1929, she arrived in India, where she began her novitiate and taught at St. Teresa's School in Darjeeling. Taking her first religious vows in 1931, she adopted the name Teresa in honor of Thérèse de Lisieux. She eventually moved to Calcutta and took her solemn vows in 1937. For nearly two decades, she served as a teacher and headmistress at the Loreto convent school. The poverty she witnessed in Calcutta during the Bengal famine of 1943 deeply affected her.
Founding the Missionaries of Charity (1950-1952)
During a visit to Darjeeling in 1946, Mother Teresa felt a calling to serve the poor of India. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, adopting a white sari with blue borders as the order's habit. The congregation aimed to care for the "poorest among the poor." In 1952, she opened the Kalighat Home for the Dying, where people of different faiths received care according to their beliefs.
Expansion and Global Impact
Mother Teresa's mission gained recognition and support from Indian officials, including the prime minister. She opened a hospice for leprosy patients called Shanti Nagar and established leprosy-outreach clinics throughout Calcutta. The congregation expanded rapidly, opening hospices, orphanages, and houses for the homeless across India and internationally. By 1997, the Missionaries of Charity had grown to more than 4,000 sisters and 450 brothers worldwide, caring for diverse groups including refugees, the disabled, and victims of natural disasters.
Fluent in five languages including Bengali, Albanian, Serbian, English, and Hindi, she frequently embarked on international trips for humanitarian purposes. In 1982, during the intense Siege of Beirut, she orchestrated a temporary truce between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants, rescuing 37 children trapped in a war-torn hospital.
Communist Europe and Global Expansion
Amidst the thaw in Eastern Europe during the late 1980s, Mother Teresa extended her efforts to Communist countries that had previously rejected her Missionaries of Charity. Undeterred by criticism for her stances against abortion and divorce, she initiated numerous projects in these regions, visiting places like Armenia after the 1988 earthquake and engaging with figures such as Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov. Her compassion led her to aid various crises, including famine in Ethiopia, radiation victims in Chernobyl, and earthquake survivors in Armenia.
Missionaries of Charity's Growth and Outreach
By 1991, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity established a presence in over 100 countries, operating 517 missions worldwide. The organization's sisters expanded from a dozen to thousands, serving the most vulnerable across 450 centers. In the United States, the Missionaries of Charity established their first home in the South Bronx area of New York City and subsequently founded 19 establishments nationwide by 1984.
Health Decline and Passing
Mother Teresa faced several health setbacks, including heart attacks and pneumonia, which deteriorated her well-being. Despite her offers to step down as head of the Missionaries of Charity, she remained at the helm due to the congregation's support. In her final years, she battled malaria, heart failure, and underwent heart surgery. Her health struggles culminated in her resignation as the head of the Missionaries of Charity in 1997.
On March 13, 1997, Mother Teresa stepped down from her leadership role, and she passed away on September 5. At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity operated 610 missions in 123 countries, supported by over one million co-workers. Her open casket lay in repose in St Thomas, Calcutta, before receiving a state funeral from the Indian government in recognition of her service to all religions and the impoverished in the nation. Her passing was mourned worldwide, with figures like former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar regarding her as a symbol of peace and humanity.
Legacy and Impact
Throughout her life, Mother Teresa demonstrated unwavering dedication to her mission of helping the marginalized and impoverished. Her work with the Missionaries of Charity left a profound impact on countless lives and garnered global recognition for her compassion and service.
Mother Teresa Best Quotes
"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love." (Meaning)
"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." (Meaning)
"Peace begins with a smile." (Meaning)
"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." (Meaning)
"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier." (Meaning)
"We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do." (Meaning)
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." (Meaning)
"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." (Meaning)
"There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in - that we do it to God, to Christ, and that's why we try to do it as beautifully as possible."
"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread." (Meaning)
"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." (Meaning)
"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty."
"The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it." (Meaning)
"Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand." (Meaning)
"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action." (Meaning)
"The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between."
"The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted." (Meaning)
"If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it." (Meaning)
"Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus."
"I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?"
"Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own."
"Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself. Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them."
"I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn't touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God."
"Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God - the rest will be given." (Meaning)
"There must be a reason why some people can afford to live well. They must have worked for it. I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things that we could use."
"I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world."
"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
"The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved."
"I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much."
"Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty." (Meaning)
"Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls." (Meaning)
"God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls." (Meaning)
"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty." (Meaning)
"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home" (Meaning)
"Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go" (Meaning)
"Intense love does not measure, it just gives" (Meaning)
"One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody" (Meaning)
"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat" (Meaning)
* The editor of this short biography made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any quotes, facts, or key life events. If you're looking to expand your personal development, I recommend exploring other people's life stories and gaining inspiration from my collection of inspiring quotes. Exposing yourself to different perspectives can broaden your worldview and help you with your personal growth.
Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.