Mother Teresa’s Greatest Achievements
Quick Facts about Mother Teresa
Name at baptism: Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu
Date of birth: August 26, 1910
Place of birth: Skopje, North Macedonia (formerly part of the Ottoman Empire)
Died: September 5, 1997
Place of death: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Nationality: Albanian, Indian
Cause of death: Cardiac arrest
Mother: Dranafile Bojaxhiu
Siblings: Aga Bojaxhiu, Lazar Bojaxhiu
Religion: Roman Catholic
Most known for: offering assistance to the poor, disease-stricken, and destitute around the world
Date of canonization: September 4, 2016 (by Pope Francis)
Major honors and awards: Nobel Peace Prize (1979), Balzan Prize (1978), Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971), Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding (1969), Padma Shri (1962)
Also known as: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “the Saint of the Gutters”
She was born on August 26, 1910 to parents Nikolle and Dranafile Bojaxhiu in Skopje, North Macedonia. Her father was a businessman, while her mother was an influential member of the local church in Skopje.
Mother Terasa was the youngest among her siblings. She took her First Communion around the age of six. At the age of eight, her father passed away, nudging her family into bad financial position.
It’s been said that much of the traits and character that she exhibited was instilled in her by her mother. At an early age she and her mother were involved in the Jesuit Parish of the Sacred Heart.
At the age of 18, she enrolled at the Institute of the Blessed Mary Virgin, also called Sisters of Loreto, in Rathfarnham, Ireland. Her goal was to become a missionary. While in the nun school, she was named Sister Mary Teresa after St. Therese of Lisieux.
In 1929, she began her novitiate in Darjeeling, West Bengal. In order to properly reach out to more people, she quickly learned Bengali, the local language of the state.
After taking her first religious vows in May 1931, she proceeded to work as a geography school teacher at St Mary’s School. About 13 years later, she rose to the position of principal of the school.
She came to be called Mother Teresa after taking her Final Profession of Vows in May 1937.
According to Mother Teresa, she received a call from God to be of service to the slums of Calcutta and beyond.
Major Accomplishments of Mother Teresa
Beginning around the mid-1940s, Mother Teresa believed that she received a divine call from God to go out there, into the most destitute areas of India, and be of service to poverty-and disease-stricken communities. She took the message seriously, as not doing so would be going against the instructions of God, so she believed.
During her more than 60-year career as a humanitarian, Mother Teresa was able to accomplish a lot of impactful things in the world of charity. Some of her major accomplishments are as follows:
In 1948, she secured approval from the local Archbishop Ferdinand Perier to go ahead with the establishment of religious community, which she named Missionaries of Charity Sisters. Final approval (from the Vatican) for the charity organization came in October 1950. From then onward, Teresa’s organization would devote itself to being of immense help to people who had been neglected by the society. She was able to imbue in her staff, who were mostly her former students, values such as compassion, empathy, love and kindness.
Two years into its inception, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity managed to open their first hospice with the help of local officials in Calcutta. Renovation works were made on an abandoned Hindu temple, turning it into the Kalighat Home for the Dying. The goal of the hospice was to give people a dignified death. As she put it: “is for people who lived like animals to die like angels—loved and wanted.”
In its formative stages, the Missionaries of Charity had a mere 13 members of staff. After a decade or so, the organization grew to become one of the most impactful charity organizations in India and beyond. Her selfless work and astute managerial skills augured very well for the organization. This enabled them to receive handsome donations from around the world. With those financial donations, she was able to expand the activities of the Missionaries of Charity to many other areas, in addition to health and education. By the 1960s, Missionaries of Charity could boast of many branches, orphanages, leper centers, and hospices all over the country.
Mother Teresa began what she called a Home for the Dying in 1952. Heartbroken by the way the most deprived areas in India treated people with terminal illnesses, the Roman Catholic nun set out to give people struck by incurable diseases the opportunity to live their last few days with dignity. What this meant was that her organization was able to attract not just Roman Catholics, but a host of people from different walks of life and religious background. Teresa encouraged her staff to take all kinds of people in need of help regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender. She always reiterated that her calling was to be of service to humanity and the world in general.
Prior to setting up the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa took some time out to gain some medical training at the Medical Mission Sisters in Patna, Bihar. She knew that having basic training in health care would come in very handy when the time came for her to uplift the health conditions in those deprived areas of the country. It was out of this passion of hers that a home was created for people plagued with Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy. At the Shanti Nagar – the name of Teresa’s leprosy center – Teresa and her staff took care of all manner of people suffering from the disease. She fed them, clothed them, and imbued in them hope so that they could go on with their lives.
Under the auspices of the Missionaries of Charity and other very charitable organizations, Mother Teresa established a center for orphaned children. The center, which was named Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, also provided shelter for homeless and troubled youth. The Catholic nun’s goal was to catch them young so that those young boys and girls grew up to make something out of themselves.
On the back of a very successful and impactful charity work of the Missionaries of Charity, a sister organization called the Missionaries of Charity Brothers was established in 1963. The goal of that organization was to attend to not just physical needs of the poor, but also the spiritual needs of the poor.
Other notable accomplishments of Mother Teresa
- Beginning around the mid-1960s, Mother Teresa started spreading her tentacles beyond India. As her goal was to be of service to the unloved, the poorest of the poor, and the diseased anywhere in the world, she combined forces with a number of charities to establish branches outside India. The first international branch of the Missionaries of Charity opened in Venezuela, South America, in 1965. That congregation started with a mere five sisters; however, with time, the organization grew to become one of the most leading charities in South America. As the years rolled by, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity started operating in many Sub-Saharan African countries. Teresa’s work also sent her to places in Europe and the United States. In the Middle East for example, her organization was directly involved in rescuing close to 40 orphaned children that had nowhere to go during the Lebanon war in the early 1980s.
- Mother Teresa was involved in the establishment of the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests in 1981. Three years later, she helped found the Missionaries of Charity Fathers. The primary objective of those two organizations was to provide adequate training and resources to Catholic priests and missionaries serving in some of the most horrific of conditions in the world.
- She was involved in the formation of the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa, the Lay Missionaries of Charity, and the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers.
- Teresa’s missionary and charity works broke down barriers, both economic and political. Starting around the early 1980s, she received permission from many Soviet countries to establish a congregation or some kind of charitable project. The defining moment of her organization came during the Chernobyl nuclear crisis, where she helped nurse those affected by radiation to reasonable health. She was also quick to intervene during the Ethiopian food crisis and famine, saving the lives of thousands of malnourished and starving African children.
- In the 1980s, her charity organization began making their presence felt in Communities countries that had previously shunned her away. For example, Missionaries of Charity partook in the relief efforts following the devastating 1988 earthquake in Armenia.
- After almost a century since she left her homeland, Mother Teresa returned to Albania and setup up Missionaries of Charity Brothers in the capital Tirana.
More Mother Teresa facts
Her fluency in so many different languages allowed her to conduct charitable activities all across the world, providing care to refugees, the physically impaired, drug addicts, homeless people, victims of natural disasters, and the poor, among others.
At the time of her death, her organization had close to 4,000 sisters working all across the world, bringing solace and physical help to the poor, hungry and troubled. The total number of branches across the world was in the region of 600. Her organization had presence in over 120 countries. Often times partnering with international organizations like the International Red Cross, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity was operating in six continents. From soup kitchens in Rome to HIV/AIDS center in Tanzania, Mother Teresa did indeed accomplish quite a lot of astounding things. The above feats are just some of the reasons why many consider her one of the greatest humanitarian in modern history.
In some parts of Kolkata, some Hindus revere Mother Teresa as a goddess. This is testament to the immense impact she had on the lives and livellihoods of the people in that region.
A devout Catholic, Mother Teresa was an unflinching pro-life supporter. Her views on contraception and abortion received some bit of criticism.
In 1992, with the help of Indian writer and civil servant Navin Chawla, she was able to publish her first authorized biography.
South Bronx, New York was the first place in America to receive Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. In less than a decade, the organization would expand to about 20 branches across the United States.
Awards and honors
Mother Teresa’s humanitarian works, both in India and across the world, earned very lofty praises and honors. Some examples of those honors are as follows:
In 1962, the Indian government bestowed one of the highest civilian honors – Padma Shri (also known as Padma Shree) – on her. Seven years later, she received the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. In 1980, Mother Teresa received the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honor in India, for her untiring humanitarian efforts in India.
In 1971, she became the first recipient of the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize. The honor was given to her for untiring commitment and boundless love to meeting the needs of poor people and diseased-stricken areas in the world.
She received the Ramon Magsaysay Award, a Filipino award given to people who have shown strong integrity and commitment in the service of people.
In 1982, the Australian government bestowed the honor of Companion of the Order of Australia. She was praised for her numerous charitable services to not just Australia but the world at large.
Perhaps her biggest recognition on the international stage came when the Nobel Committee selected her as the recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She used the prize money she got from the Nobel Peace Prize to provide services for the poor in India.
In her birth country Albania, she was honored with the Golden Honor of the Nation in 1994.
In 1996, the Clinton administration honored her with a honorary citizenship of the United States.
In 2001, the international airport in Tirana, Albania was named after Mother Teresa. The airport is called Nënë Tereza.
Did you know: Mother Teresa was fluent in five languages – Albanian, Serbian, Hindi, English, and Bengali?
Later years and death
Towards the later part of the 1980s, her health started to deteriorate. In 1983, she was admitted to a hospital in Rome after suffering a mild heart attack. In the years that followed, the famous Catholic nun would battle a number of heart problems, with some requiring surgeries. Owing to her declining health, she stepped down from the management of her organization in March 1997. She was succeeded by Sister Maria Nirmala Joshi (1934 – 2015), an Indian Catholic Religious Sister whose tenure as the Superior General saw the charity begin operations in Thailand, Afghanistan and Israel.
On September 5, 1997, the world woke up to the tragic news of the death of Mother Teresa. Due to the immense contribution she made in India, the 87-year-old was given a state funeral, honoring all the things she accomplished in her life.
Mother Teresa’s Beatification and Canonization
She was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 2003 during the Papacy of John Paul II. With that she came to be known as Blessed Mother Teresa.
On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis announced to the whole world the canonization of Mother Teresa. She thus became Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Teresa and St. Francis Xavier are co-patrons of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta, India. Her feast day is on September 5.