Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu /ˈagnɛs gɔnˈʤa bɔˈjadʒju/ (Albanian Gonxha for "rosebud") was born on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, now the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. Although she was born on August 26, 1910, she considered August 27, 1910, the day she was baptized, to be her "true birthday. "
Although some sources state that she was 10 when her father died, in an interview with her brother, the Vatican documents her age at the time as "about eight". She was the youngest of the children of a family from Shkodër, Albania, born to Kolë and Dranafile Bojaxhiu (Albanian Dranafile for "rose", nicknamed "Drone"). Her father, Kolë Bojaxhiu was involved in Albanian politics. In 1919, after a political meeting, which left Skopje out of Albania, he fell ill and died when Agnes was about eight years old. After her father's death, her mother raised her as a Roman Catholic. According to a biography by Joan Graff Clucas, in her early years Agnes was fascinated by stories of the lives of missionaries and their service, and by age 12 was convinced that she should commit herself to a religious life. She left home at age 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto as a missionary. She never again saw her mother or sister.
Missionaries of Charity
On September 10, 1946, Teresa experienced what she later described as "the call within the call" while traveling to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling for her annual retreat. "I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith."She began her missionary work with the poor in 1948, replacing her traditional Loreto habit with a simple white cotton chiras decorated with a blue border, adopted Indian citizenship, and ventured out into the slums. Initially she started a school in Motijhil; soon she started tending to the needs of the destitute and starving. Her efforts quickly caught the attention of Indian officials, including the Prime Minister, who expressed his appreciation.
Teresa wrote in her diary that her first year was fraught with difficulties. She had no income and had to resort to begging for food and supplies. Teresa experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life during these early months. She wrote in her diary:
“ Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. Today I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then the comfort of Loreto [her former order] came to tempt me. 'You have only to say the word and all that will be yours again,' the Tempter kept on saying ... Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard. I did not let a single tear come. ”
Teresa received Vatican permission on October 7, 1950 to start the diocesan congregation that would become the Missionaries of Charity. Its mission was to care for, in her own words, "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone." It began as a small order with 13 members in Calcutta; today it has more than 4,000 nuns running orphanages, AIDS hospices, and charity centers worldwide, and caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless, and victims of floods, epidemics, and famine.
In 1952 Mother Teresa opened the first Home for the Dying in space made available by the City of Calcutta. With the help of Indian officials she converted an abandoned Hindu temple into the Kalighat Home for the Dying, a free hospice for the poor. She renamed it Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart (Nirmal Hriday). Those brought to the home received medical attention and were afforded the opportunity to die with dignity, according to the rituals of their faith; Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received the Last Rites. "A beautiful death," she said, "is for people who lived like animals to die like angels — loved and wanted."Mother Teresa soon opened a home for those suffering from Hansen's disease, commonly known as leprosy, and called the hospice Shanti Nagar (City of Peace).The Missionaries of Charity also established several leprosy outreach clinics throughout Calcutta, providing medication, bandages and food.
The Missionaries of Charity Brothers was founded in 1963, and a contemplative branch of the Sisters followed in 1976. Lay Catholics and non-Catholics were enrolled in the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa, the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, and the Lay Missionaries of Charity. In answer to the requests of many priests, in 1981 Mother Teresa also began the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests,and in 1984 founded with Fr. Joseph Langford the Missionaries of Charity Fathers to combine the vocational aims of the Missionaries of Charity with the resources of the ministerial priesthood. By 2007 the Missionaries of Charity numbered approximately 450 brothers and 5,000 nuns worldwide, operating 600 missions, schools and shelters in 120 countries.
In 1982, at the height of the Siege of Beirut, Mother Teresa rescued 37 children trapped in a front line hospital by brokering a temporary cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian guerrillas.Accompanied by Red Cross workers, she traveled through the war zone to the devastated hospital to evacuate the young patients.
When Eastern Europe experienced increased openness in the late 1980s, she expanded her efforts to Communist countries that had previously rejected the Missionaries of Charity, embarking on dozens of projects. She was undeterred by criticism about her firm stand against abortion and divorce stating, "No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work."
Mother Teresa traveled to assist and minister to the hungry in Ethiopia, radiation victims at Chernobyl, and earthquake victims in Armenia. In 1991, Mother Teresa returned for the first time to her homeland and opened a Missionaries of Charity Brothers home in Tirana, Albania.
By 1996, she was operating 517 missions in more than 100 countries. Over the years, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity grew from twelve to thousands serving the "poorest of the poor" in 450 centers around the world. The first Missionaries of Charity home in the United States was established in the South Bronx, New York; by 1984 the order operated 19 establishments throughout the country.
The spending of the charity money received has been criticized by some. Christopher Hitchens and the liberal German magazine Stern have said that money that was donated with the intention of it being spent on the keeping of the poor was spent on other projects instead.
Declining health and death
Mother Teresa suffered a heart attack in Rome in 1983, while visiting Pope John Paul II. After a second attack in 1989, she received an artificial pacemaker. In 1991, after a battle with pneumonia while in Mexico, she suffered further heart problems. She offered to resign her position as head of the Missionaries of Charity. But the nuns of the order, in a secret ballot, voted for her to stay. Mother Teresa agreed to continue her work as head of the order.
In April 1996, Mother Teresa fell and broke her collar bone. In August she suffered from malaria and failure of the left heart ventricle. She had heart surgery, but it was clear that her health was declining. On March 13, 1997, she stepped down from the head of Missionaries of Charity and died on September 5, 1997.
Her death was mourned in both secular and religious communities. In tribute, Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan said that she was "a rare and unique individual who lived long for higher purposes. Her life-long devotion to the care of the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged was one of the highest examples of service to our humanity." The former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar said: "She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world." During her lifetime and after her death, Mother Teresa was consistently found by Gallup to be the single most widely admired person in the US, and in 1999 was ranked as the "most admired person of the 20th century" by a poll in the US. She out-polled all other volunteered answers by a wide margin, and was in first place in all major demographic categories except the very young.
Following Mother Teresa's death in 1997, the Holy See began the process of beatification, the second step towards possible canonization. This process requires the documentation of a miracle performed from the intercession of Mother Teresa. In 2002, the Vatican recognized as a miracle the healing of a tumor in the abdomen of an Indian woman, Monica Besra, following the application of a locket containing Mother Teresa's picture. Monica Besra said that a beam of light emanated from the picture, curing the cancerous tumor. It is claimed that some of Besra's medical staff and, initially, Besra's husband insisted that conventional medical treatment eradicated the tumor. The officials at the Balurghat Hospital where Monica was seeking medical treatment are claiming that they are being pressured by the Catholic order to declare the cure as a miracle.
Mother Teresa inspired a variety of commemorations. She has been memorialized through museums, been named patroness of various churches, and had various structures and roads named after her.
By Maria El Mayda