“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”.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in 1910 in a Catholic family of Albanian origin, in the current Macedonia region. She lost her father when she was only eight, and she spent her adolescence engaging in parish activities.
She was determined to follow her religious vocation and to become a missionary, at the age of 18 she entered the House of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto in Ireland, where she was given the name Teresa, as her patron saint, St. Theresa of Lisieux.
From there, she was sent by the congregation to India, where the Sisters of Loreto had a school. While living in Calcutta from 1930 to 1940, she made perpetual profession and vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, as well as teaching history and geography in a secondary school. It was from this time on that she came to be called Mother Teresa.
In 1946, during a train ride between the cities of Calcutta and Darjeeling for her annual retreat, she heard the inner calling that prompted her to leave the convent and live among the poor of Calcutta. It was the “call within the call”, the “inspiration” to establish the “Missionaries of Charity” community, dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor.
After two years of testing and discernment, she was authorized by Pope Pius XII to leave the convent of Loreto and live in the world of the poor, with her characteristic blue sari with a white border. She got Indian nationality, visited families in slums, washed the wounds of children, started a school outdoors and looked after the poor, sick and hungry.
With no financial funds, she depended on Divine Providence and went out with the rosary in her hand to find and serve the “unwanted, unloved, uncared for”, and little by little she was raising supporters to the cause.
In 1950, she founded the congregation of the Missionaries of Charity in the Archdiocese of Calcutta. In the early 1960s, Mother Teresa began sending her sisters to other parts of India, and the Decree of Praise granted to the congregation by Pope Paul VI encouraged her to open a house in Venezuela, soon followed by foundations in Rome, Tanzania, The Soviet Union, Albania, Cuba and dozens of other countries on every continent. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, there were already 158 mission houses.
Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity and more than 600 missions throughout India and in more than 100 countries. After devoting a life to the poor, she died at age 87 of heart failure. In 2003, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II.