Mother Teresa, known in the Catholic Church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary.
Let’s see some historic facts about her!
1. Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was born 26 August 1910 into a Kosovar Albanian family in Skopje (now the capital of the Republic of Macedonia), Ottoman Empire.
2. She was baptized in Skopje, the day after her birth.
3. She later considered 27 August, the day she was baptised, her “true birthday”.
4. She was the youngest child of Nikollë and Dranafile Bojaxhiu (Bernai).
5. Her father, who was involved in Albanian-community politics in Macedonia, died in 1919 when she was eight years old.
6. He may have been from Prizren, Kosovo, and her mother may have been from a village near Gjakova.
7 .According to a biography by Joan Graff Clucas, during her early years Teresa was fascinated by stories of the lives of missionaries and their service in Bengal; by age 12, she was convinced that she should commit herself to religious life.
8. Her resolve strengthened on 15 August 1928 as she prayed at the shrine of the Black Madonna of Vitina-Letnice, where she often went on pilgrimages.
9. Teresa left home in 1928 at age 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland, to learn English with the view of becoming a missionary; English was the language of instruction of the Sisters of Loreto in India.
10. She never saw her mother or her sister again. Her family lived in Skopje until 1934, when they moved to Tirana.
11. She arrived in India in 1929 and began her novitiate in Darjeeling, in the lower Himalayas, where she learnt Bengali and taught at St. Teresa’s School near her convent.
12. Teresa took her first religious vows on 24 May 1931. She chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries; because a nun in the convent had already chosen that name, Agnes opted for its Spanish spelling (Teresa).
13. Teresa took her solemn vows on 14 May 1937 while she was a teacher at the Loreto convent school in Entally, eastern Calcutta.
14. She served there for nearly twenty years, and was appointed its headmistress in 1944.
15. Although Teresa enjoyed teaching at the school, she was increasingly disturbed by the poverty surrounding her in Calcutta.
16. The Bengal famine of 1943 brought misery and death to the city, and the August 1946 Direct Action Day began a period of Muslim-Hindu violence.
17. In 1950 Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which had over 4,500 sisters and was active in 133 countries in 2012.
18. The congregation manages homes for people dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; dispensaries and mobile clinics; children’s- and family-counselling programmes; orphanages, and schools.
19. Members, who take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, also profess a fourth vow: to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”.
20. Teresa received a number of honours, including the 1962 Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize and 1979 Nobel Peace Prize.
21. She was canonised (recognised by the church as a saint) on 4 September 2016, and the anniversary of her death (5 September) is her feast day.
22. A controversial figure during her life and after her death, Teresa was admired by many for her charitable work.
23. She was praised and criticised for her opposition to abortion, and criticised for poor conditions in her houses for the dying. Her authorised biography was written by Navin Chawla and published in 1992, and she has been the subject of films and other books.
24. According to a paper by Canadian academics Serge Larivée, Geneviève Chénard and Carole Sénéchal, Teresa’s clinics received millions of dollars in donations but lacked medical care, systematic diagnosis, necessary nutrition and sufficient analgesics for those in pain: “Mother Teresa believed the sick must suffer like Christ on the cross”
25. It was said that the additional money might have transformed the health of the city’s poor by creating advanced palliative care facilities.
26. Abortion-rights groups criticised Teresa’s stance on abortion, and opponents of abortion praised her support of fetal rights.
27. One of Teresa’s most outspoken critics was English journalist, literary critic and antitheist Christopher Hitchens, author of the essay The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995), who wrote in a 2003 article: “This returns us to the medieval corruption of the church, which sold indulgences to the rich while preaching hellfire and continence to the poor. [Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.” He accused her of hypocrisy for choosing advanced treatment for her heart condition.
28. Although Hitchens thought he was the only witness called by the Vatican, Aroup Chatterjee (author of Mother Teresa: The Untold Story) was also called to present evidence opposing Teresa’s beatification and canonisation; the Vatican had abolished the traditional “devil’s advocate”, which served a similar purpose.
29. Hitchens said that “her intention was not to help people”, and she lied to donors about how their contributions were used. “It was by talking to her that I discovered, and she assured me, that she wasn’t working to alleviate poverty”, he said, “She was working to expand the number of Catholics. She said, ‘I’m not a social worker. I don’t do it for this reason. I do it for Christ. I do it for the church.'”
30. Bill Donohue, the president of Catholic League, issued a comprehensive answer to Hitchens’ criticisms in 2016.
31. On 13 March 1997 Teresa resigned as head of the Missionaries of Charity, and she died on 5 September.