he Saint of the Gutters
Mother Teresa was born in Albania on August 26th, 1910.
She left her wealthy home when she was 18 so she could join
a convent and become a missionary; her father had died when she
was young, and leaving home meant she would never see her mother or her sister again. But she was determined to give her life over to God, and that is what she did. She was not only a nun for the whole of her life, but has become one of the most famous and celebrated humanitarians ever because she did so much to help people and alleviate suffering. She died in September 1997, and was soon beatified by John Paul II, meaning that she is now known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and is on her way to becoming a saint. She was given a state funeral when she died by the Indian government, and although people were sad that she had died, they used her funeral as a chance to celebrate all the wonderful things she had done in her life. Here are some of the things that might have been celebrated during her funeral mass:
-Mother Teresa started her missionary work in 1948, when she was 38. She said that she could feel God ordering her to leave the convent and go out into the streets to help the poor, the hungry, and the homeless. Things were very, very hard for her in the beginning, and she even had to beg on the street so she could have food and supplies for her missionary work, and she was very tempted to go back to the comfortable life she had enjoyed at the convent, but she stayed living amongst the very poor and the very needy so she could do more to help them. Eventually though, people became aware of what she was doing, and she found things slightly easier: the Indian Prime Minister even expressed his gratitude and appreciation for it.
The Vatican (the centre of the Roman Catholic Church) gave Mother Teresa permission to set up the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. Mother Teresa said it would be a movement that helped: “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society and are shunned by everyone”. She would work with these people for over forty years.
-The Missionaries of Charity started out as thirteen nuns in one small order in Calcutta, but soon it began to get increasing donations and volunteers, and it started to expand. By the 1960s, they were able to open orphanages, hospices and leprosy hospitals throughout India. By the 1970s, new orders had opened throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and in the United States of America. By the time Mother Teresa died in 1997, there were over 4,000 nuns and 100,000 lay people (people not involved in the church) working for the Missionaries of Charity in 610 different missions in 123 countries across the world. These included orphanages, schools, soup kitchens to feed the hungry, hospices to look after people dying from leprosy, AIDS or tuberculosis, homes for the blind and the disabled, and places for refugees to live, or those who had been forced to leave their homes because of famine or earthquakes.
In 1952, Mother Teresa opened Calcutta’s first Home for the Dying. This was a free hospice, where poor people who were dying could go to die in dignity, where they could have whatever traditions their religions said they should: if they
ere Catholics, they would be given the last rites; Muslims would be
read to from the Koran (the Muslim holy book); and Hindus would
be blessed with water from the Ganges (the sacred river for Hindus).
The next thing she set up was a home for people with leprosy: this
was a disease that could be highly contagious, and people who had
leprosy tended to be cast out from society and nobody would have anything to do with them. But Mother Teresa set up a home to look after them; and also many leprosy clinics throughout Calcutta, so those who weren’t yet sick enough to come into the home could visit those clinics for fresh bandages, medication and food.
n 1971, Pope Paul VI granted her the first Pope John 23rd Peace Prize because of all the work she did with the poor, her efforts for peace, and her displays of Christian charity. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, for all the work she had done to overcome “poverty and distress”. There is usually a large banquet thrown in the honour of people who win the Nobel Peace Prize, but Mother Teresa insisted that the $192,000 (about £120,000) that would usually be spent on this banquet be spent
on feeding the poor of India, instead.
In 1982, when the Israeli Army were fighting against some Palestinian
fighters in Beirut, Lebanon, Mother Teresa managed to set up a temporary
cease fire so she could run onto the front line to rescue 37 children
who had been trapped in a hospital there. This could have been hugely
dangerous, but Mother Teresa risked her life to save the lives of those
When she died in 1997, she was a given a state funeral in India, to
honour all that she had done to help so many different people, from
many different religions. One Indian newspaper even calls her
the Saint of the Gutters”.
What is a nun?
What religion was mother Teresa? Who did she follow?
What is a hospice?
What does humanitarian mean?
How do you think she would have felt about our school motto?
Explain what is meant by “the Saint of the Gutters”. Try to think of another snappy phrase to sum up Mother Teresa’s life.
What do you think Mother Teresa may have felt about Hinduism?
How do you know that the government of India really appreciated Mother Teresa’s work?
Use the biography sheet to write her Biography
Draw or trace a picture of Mother Teresa.