Mother Teresa was born as Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu Anjezë on 26 August 1910 into a Kosovar Albanian family in Skopje,Ottoman Empire which is now the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. But she later considered 27 August, the day she was baptised, to be her "true birthday”.
Her parents were Nikollë and Dranafile Bojaxhiu (Bernai) she was the youngest of the children. Her father,was involved in the politics of the Albanian community in Macedonia and he died in the year 1919 when she was just eight years old.
During her early years she was highly influenced by the stories of the lives of missionaries and read a lot about the services of Missionaries in Bengal.
By the time she reached the age of 12 years she had made up her mind that she would commit herself to a religious life. Consequently, she took a final resolution in this regard on 15 August 1928, while praying at the shrine of the Black Madonna of Vitina-Letnice. She often went on a pilgrimage to this place.
She left home in the year 1928 at the age of 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland to learn English, with an aim to become a missionary.
Sisters of Loreto used English language as a medium of communication to teach school children in India.
She never again saw her mother or her sister and her family continued to live in Skopje until 1934, after which they moved to Tirana in Albania.
Her arrival in Bengal
Mother Teresa arrived in India in the year 1929. She began her novitiate in Darjeeling, where she learnt Bengali language and taught at St. Teresa's School, a schoolhouse close to her convent. She took her first religious vows as a nun on 24 May 1931. It was during this time that she chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries. But, this name was already taken by one nun in the convent. Therefore, Agnes opted for the Spanish spelling of Teresa and thus she became famous as Mother Teresa.
She took her solemn vows on 14 May 1937, while serving as a teacher at the Loreto convent school in Entally, eastern Calcutta (present day Kolkata). Teresa served there for about twenty years and in the year 1944, she was appointed as the headmistress of the school.
Teresa enjoyed teaching at the school, but she was highly disturbed by the poverty surrounding her in Calcutta. To aggravate the situation, The Bengal famine of 1943 brought misery and death to the city. Further, there was an outbreak of Hindu/Muslim violence in August 1946 that increased despair and horror in the city.
Mother Teresa was in Rome, in the year 1983 to visit Pope John Paul 2. It was during this time that she suffered from a heart attack. In the year 1989, she suffered another attack and was given an artificial pacemaker.
In the year 1991 she suffered from pneumonia while in Mexico that further deteriorated her heart problems. She offered to resign from her position as head of the Missionaries of Charity, but the sisters of the congregation, in a secret ballot, voted for her to stay. Mother Teresa agreed to continue her work as head of the congregation.
In the April of1996 Teresa fell and broke her collar bone and same year in the month of August she suffered from malaria and failure of the left heart ventricle.
Due to such an adverse situation, she underwent a heart surgery. But her condition deteriorated day by day.
The Archbishop of Calcutta, Henry Sebastian D'Souza, once said that after taking permission from Teresa, he ordered a priest to perform an exorcism on her when she was first hospitalised with cardiac problems. He thought that she might have been possessed by an evil spirit.
On 13 March 1997, she stepped down from the head of Missionaries of Charity.
She died on 5 September 1997.
Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity
During the time of her death, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters, and an associated brotherhood of 300 members. It was operating 610 missions in 123 countries and included hospices and homes for people with leprosy, tuberculosis, soup kitchens, HIV/AIDS, children's and family counselling programmes, personal helpers, orphanages and schools.
Mother Teresa was loved by millions across the globe. She laid in repose in St Thomas, Calcutta, one week prior to her funeral in September 1997. Also, she was granted a state funeral by the Indian government in gratitude for her self-less and unbiased services to the poor.
Further, her death was mourned in both secular and religious communities.
Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, once 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."
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, a former U.N. Secretary-General, said that "She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world."
Awards and Recognition
•She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1962
•Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in the year 1969
•She received India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in the year 1980.
•Her official biography was written by an Indian civil servant, Navin Chawla, and published in 1992.
•On 28 August 2010, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her birth, the government of India issued a special 5 rupee coin.
•President Pratibha Patil said of Teresa, "Clad in a white sari with a blue border, she and the sisters of Missionaries of Charity became a symbol of hope to many – the aged, the destitute, the unemployed, the diseased, the terminally ill, and those abandoned by their families."
•In the year 1962, Mother Teresa received the Philippines-based Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding, given for work in South or East Asia.
•In the year 1971 Pope Paul VI awarded her the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize, commending her for her work with the poor, display of Christian charity and efforts for peace.
•She received the Pacem in Terris Award in the year 1976
•She was appointed an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia in 1982, "for service to the community of Australia and humanity at large."
•She received an honorary citizenship of the United States received on 16 November 1996
•Mother Teresa's Albanian homeland granted her the Golden Honour of the Nation in 1994