Who was she?
Mother Teresa was born in Albania in 1910. Her real name was Agnes Gonxha. Religion was very important to Mother Teresa and her family, she was a Roman Catholic. She remembers her mother always telling her, to love God and her neighbours. She took a great interest in helping out in her church and was particularly interested in the missionaries working in India.
At the age of 12 she felt that God was calling her to be a nun. In 1928, when she was only 18 Agnes travelled to Loreto Abbey in Ireland to learn English and begin her life as a Loreto nun. After two months in Ireland she moved over to India to live in the Loreto convent over there. When she was 21, Agnes took her first vows. She needed a new name for her new life, so she adopted the name Teresa.
Mother Teresa began teaching Geography at one of the Loreto schools. She loved her job, but couldn’t stop thinking about the poor people outside of the school walls. Whenever she had time, she visited the slums with medicines and gifts.
On 10th September 1946 after 17 happy years as a Loreto Sister her life suddenly changed. Sister Teresa thought she heard the voice of God, she always remembered it as her 'day of inspiration'. God spoke to her and told her she must work with the poor in the slums. When she returned she asked permission from the Nuns. They said it was too dangerous and refused. It would be two years later until she would be given the decision she wanted.
What did she do?
Mother Teresa gave up her convent life and dressed like a poor Indian woman. She realised that she would need medical skills to help the poor and spent four months on a short nursing course.
She had just 5 rupees (about 30p) in her pocket when she went into the slums. She began by starting a school on the street. She used the dusty ground as her blackboard and a stick as her chalk. When people heard what she was doing they sent gifts for her school.
Next, she started handing out bandages, medicines and food, given to her by people who wanted to help.
Mother Teresa was shocked when she first entered the slums. Many people had no homes; the lucky ones lived under old sacks. Many had only rags to wear, hunger and disease were everywhere. There were constant disgusting smells of rotting garbage and sickness.
Old or sick people were left on the streets to die, eaten by rats and insects. Unwanted babies were thrown onto rubbish heaps.
The Pope was so impressed with the work of Sister Teresa and her helpers that on 7th October 1950, he gave her permission to start a new order of nuns. She called her order 'The Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity.' As the leader of this new order Sister Teresa became Mother Teresa.
The nuns lead a very simple life. They have very few possessions: Three saris, a pair of sandals, underwear, a crucifix, a bucket to wash in and a prayer book.
Each morning the nuns wake up at 4:30 a.m. to pray before going out to work in the slums. Some teach the children, some work with the sick, the dying or those suffering from leprosy. Others collect prepare and give out food. Mother Teresa worked alongside the other nuns not expecting them to do anything she would not do herself.
Mother Teresa and her sisters helped the people of Calcutta unconditionally.
As the years went on the work Mother Teresa was doing began to be noticed by leaders all over the world. In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When she heard the news she replied “I accept this award in the name of the poor.”
On September 5th 1997, Mother Teresa died. All her life she had been inspired by Jesus' words “Love one another as I have loved you.” These words are carved on her grave. Almost half a million people of all religions came to say a final goodbye.
Missionaries People who are sent on a mission to do religious or charity work in a foreign country.
Convent A community of religious women that live a certain way of life.
Vows The religious promises made to live a certain way.
Slum A heavy populated area of a city that has lots of poverty, inferior housing and living conditions.
Order of nuns A community of nuns that all live by the same rules and have the same beliefs. One order of nuns may have different beliefs to another order.