(1910 – 1997)
"It is not so important to do great things, as it is to do little things with great love."
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in what is now Yugoslavia on August 27, 1910. Mother Theresa grew up on a small family farm. She knew from an early age
that her life's work would be helping the poor. At the age of eighteen she joined the Sisters of Loreto, a group of Irish nuns with a mission in
Calcutta, where she was sent in 1928. She took the name Teresa from Saint Teresa of Lisieux, the patron saint of foreign missionaries. She taught in
Calcutta at a convent school for many years, taking her final vows in 1937.
She was deeply moved by the poverty and suffering she witnessed in Calcutta, and although she taught at the convent school until 1948, she eventually
left the convent to work alone in the slums of Calcutta, among the poorest of the poor. Without funding, she started a school for homeless children.
Very soon, other nuns and volunteers came to work with her, and financial assistance in the form of contributions allowed her to enlarge her ministry.
In October of 1950, she received permission from the Archdiocese of Calcutta to start her own order, The Missionaries of Charity, whose primary focus
was to provide love and care for human beings who were essentially hopeless and helpless. Members of this new order were required to take four vows
including the three basic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as well as a fourth vow pledging service to the poor. In 1952 Mother Teresa
opened the Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta. In 1957 she expanded her ministry to help lepers as well as serving in numerous disaster areas
around the world.
Pope John XXIII awarded her with his Peace Prize in 1971. In addition, she received the Nehru Prize for promoting international peace and understanding in 1972, the Balzan Prize for promoting peace and brotherhood among
nations in 1979, and most notably, the Nobel Peace Prize for her genuine and unselfish
service to humanity, also in 1979.
Today, in India alone, there are over one thousand skilled members belonging to the order she founded, many are doctors, nurses and social workers,
who tirelessly serve the poor and provide relief work in connection with natural and man made disasters. Her efforts have created fifty relief
projects operating in India, which, in addition to providing help for slum-dwellers, include children's homes, homes for the dying, clinics and a
leper colony. The order has spread around the world and undertakes relief work in countries like Africa, Asia, Latin America, Italy,
Great Britain, Ireland and the
United States. Once, when asked why she would bring her work to the United States where profound poverty such as in India does not exist. She
responded that it was another kind of poverty that brought The Sisters of Charity to the US, spiritual poverty.
In 1990 She was forced to scale back her activities because of declining health. Mother Teresa: In My Own Words, a collection of her anecdotes and
quotations, was published in 1996. In 1997, because of Mother Teresa's poor health, Sister Nirmala was chosen to succeed her as leader of the
Missionaries of Charity. Later that year, Mother Teresa passed away. People around the world mourned her death.
Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997.