Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, or Anjeze in Albanian, was born to a family of four, on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia, which is now Yugoslavia. Her name, means “rosebud” or “little flower. ” Agnes was born from Albanian descent and as an Albanian citizen. Though her true birth took place on the 26, she considered the 27 of August her true birthday because she was baptized into the church. She was baptized in the Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. Agnes was very closely attached to her family. She said, “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones- the ones at home” (FART 63).
She was born into a rich family and never struggled to have her needs met. Her father was a hardworking businessman and politician. He was born in the year of 1874 and was about 36 when Agnes was born. He was the only catholic to serve on the city council of Skopje. Her mother, a sweet, generous woman, took care of the children and did all of the house work. They had a very large garden at their house and Dranafile spent most of her free time there. They raised the children with catholic morals and roots in their faith. “Rosebud” was the youngest of the siblings with an older brother and sister.
Aga was born in 1905, and Lazar was born in 1908. Along with Agnes, their mother taught them, “My child, never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others…” (POOP 23). Agnes completed her sacraments at early ages. Her mother prepared all of the children by herself for first communion. She received the Eucharist for the first time at the age of five and a half. After her first communion, she felt a love for souls. She had her confirmation less than a year later, in November 1916. The children started their education at Sacred Heart Church but were moved to finish their education at public school.
They were taught the serbio-croatian language at their new school. Even with the change of school, their faith continued to develop. She joined the youth group at her parish and was informally taught at home through example and kind words. In 1917, extreme tragedy struck the family when her father passed away. Agnes was seven years old when he died. The cause of death is unknown but some think his political enemies poisoned him. His death was very difficult for the whole family and they would no longer live in financial security. Agnes said that, “We were very closely united, especially after my father’s death” (Chawla 1-2).
Her mother created a new business to support the family after her husband’s death. They sold embroidered cloth, and with those earning, she was able to raise the three children. His business partner was careless with the businesses investments and left the Bojaxhiu family with near to nothing. Now without their father, Agnes and her sister spent more time than ever at their parish. The joined many more parish activities. She also found a new love for books and was at the church library for lots of time. Their parish helped them recover after the death of her father. Mother Teresa remembered being very young when she felt her calling. I was only twelve years old and lived at home with my parents in Skopje when I first felt the desire to become a nun…” (Chawla 3).
When she first got her calling, her first instinct was to talk to her mother. At first, her mother opposed the idea of her joining the religious life. Agnes and her mother spent a lot of their time praying. They enjoyed praying by the feet of the Lady of Letnice in Skopje or at their own home. Once Agnes had made her decision that she wanted to become a nun, her mother wanted to make sure that her daughter committed with her full heart. Agnes met Father Jambrenkovic at one of her after school, parish activities.
He became the pastor of their parish in 1925. He started the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary that would have a lasting effect on her. Agnes went to Father Jambrenkovic to ask him about her vocational questions. When asking about how you she would know, he said, “You will know by your happiness. If you are happy with the idea that God calls you to serve him and your neighbor, this will be the proof of your vocation. Profound joy of the heart is like a magnet that indicates the path of life. One had to follow it, even though one enters into a way full of difficulties. ”
Between the ages of twelve and eighteen, with Our Lady of Letnice interceding for her, she knew for sure that God was calling her to be a nun. She felt that God called her to work in the slums of India. She made her first big step to fulfilling her calling by applying to the Loreto order that is based in Ireland but had missions in India. She left Skopje on September 26, 1928, to head to the convent in Ireland. She never saw her mother or sister again after that day. Agnes spent six weeks in Ireland learning the English language and the history of her order before she was able to travel to India.
She arrived in India on January 26, 1929. After two years as a beginner, she took her first vows as a nun on May 24, 1931. She took the name Sister Mary Teresa, after Saint Therese of Lisieux. Sister Teresa loved Saint Therese’s ability to do small things with extraordinary love. Sister Mary followed Therese’s ways of love and faithfulness through her work. Sister Teresa was sent to teach in Calcutta, India, at the Saint Mary’s High School for girls run by the Loreto nuns. This school taught the poorest of the Bengali families and tried to alleviate their poverty through education. She taught history and geography.
Through teaching there, she was able to speak Hindi and Bengali fluently. She loved teaching and called herself the happiest nun in the world. Sister Teresa took her final Profession of Vows on May 12, 1937. She then fully committed herself to a life of poverty, obedience, and chastity forever. With this new profession, she took the title “Mother. ” From then on, she would be known as Mother Teresa. Teresa continued to work at the school and in 1944 she was named the school principal. She led those children to a life filled with Christ’s love by being kind, generous, and persistent.
Mother experienced what many say was a, “a call within in a call,” on September 10, 1946. She was traveling to the Himalayan Foothills when she heard God talking to her, saying that she should abandon her life of teaching and work in the slums of Calcutta aiding the sickest and poorest. She believed that even though she was leaving the convent, her vocation got stronger. It was putting what they had always been taught into action. Teresa thought that in the eyes of some it would be considered a failure, but she knew that in the eyes of God it would be just the opposite.
She knew that in her calling, Christ was telling her to create her own convent. Since she had already taken her vow to the Loreto nuns, she could not leave the convent without official permission. She waited almost a year and a half and was finally given permission to pursue her new calling in January, 1948, by Archbishop Ferdinand Perier. That August, she left clothed in her blue and white sari that she would wear for the rest of her life. After six months of medical training, she went out to the streets to help the homeless and hungry.
On the first day when she left the convent, she was walking on the streets. She had left the convent with five rupees, or Indian money. A priest came to her and asked her to donate to the collection for the Catholic Press. She previously had given her four other rupees to the poor and was hesitant to donating her last one. Knowing that this is what God would want her to do, she gave her last rupee to the collector. That same afternoon, the same priest came to her with an envelope that had fifty rupees inside. He said that he heard of her work and wanted to help.
At this moment, Mother Teresa knew that Christ had not abandoned her and that she was doing the right thing. Leaving the Loreto Convent was very difficult for Mother Teresa. She had to leave a secure, happy lifestyle. She had so many memories there that she did not want to leave behind. That is where she received her spiritual training and joined the religious order. She went out with nothing but her faith in Christ. Teresa prayed to the Lord that this new calling would work out and in March 1949, her prayers were answered. She heard a knock on her door, and it was a young woman wanting to join her.
Mother Teresa made sure the woman knew how much of a challenge this would be and the girl still wanted to join her. Teresa saw many former students of hers join her work and thanked God for fulfilling this plan. Throughout 1949 and 1950 they got hundreds of applicants from all across the world to join their work of helping the poor. They all wanted to live a life of poverty, sacrifice, and prayer. In 1950, Pope Pius XII approved the new congregation, titled “The Missionaries of Charity. ” Mother Teresa said that she did not name the group, it just came with the calling.
Mother Teresa was amazed that the girls who wanted to come work for her mostly came from well-off families. She was surprised that they were able to leave their great lives to live in poverty. To become a Missionary of Charity, you had to meet four conditions. You needed to be clean in mind and body, you must be enthusiastic about learning, you also needed to be cheerful and have good reasoning. If you met the four conditions, you would have to come and see the work that you would be doing. Once you decided that this was the right calling for you, that person would have a long road ahead of them. If she joins, then she spends six months as an aspirant, six months as a postulant and two years as a novice.
After this, there are six years of temporary vows. Then. one year before final vows, she comes back again to the novitiate to deepen her spiritual life, because we are not social workers…” (Mother Teresa 16). They also do not let anyone younger than seventeen join. Being a missionary of Charity, their job was to spread the love of Christ to everyone. There were millions of poor and dying in India. Hospitals were overflowing with patients so Mother Teresa decided to take matters into her own hands.
She opened up a home for the dying on August 22, 1952. It was named Nirmal Hriday, or “Place of the Immaculate Heart. ” The building was donated to the Missionaries of Charity by the city of Calcutta. The nuns would bring dying people in, bathe them, and give them a cot to lay on. Therefore, these people could die with decency and their faith rituals. Mother Teresa strongly believed that children were God’s greatest gift to society. She was extremely against abortion and thought that it was so sad that the poorest couples thought that abortion was their only choice because of their financial state.
They would rather spend money on other pleasures than to feed another child. The poor could not afford abortions so they would leave their newborn baby on the streets. If they were rich enough they had the horrible choice of abortion. Mother Teresa worked hard to fight abortion with adoption. Mother Teresa opened, Shishu Bhavan, a children’s home. It was opened in 1955 and cared for orphans. The children were given medical help,a place to live, and food. Many were adopted out of the orphanage but those who were not, still had a very good chance of having a good life.
They were given a good education, given a job, and found marriages. During Mother Teresa’s time, leprosy was spread all over India. This disease disconfigured people’s bodies and people with it were looked down upon. Most were sent out of their families and shunned from the community. Because of this, Mother Teresa struggled to find a way to help them. In September 1957, Teresa opened many traveling leper clinics to help treat and educate the public about leprosy. She created a leprosy day and leprosy fund to help the infected and provide them with bandages.
To continue her efforts, she established a leper colony called Shanti Nagar, or “Place of Peace” where the lepers could live and work. This colony came to be in the mid-1960’s. When the Missionaries of Charity celebrated their tenth anniversary, they were given permission to establish more houses outside of Calcutta. Soon, many houses all around India were popping up, including houses in Delhi, Ranchi, and Jhansi. When their fifteenth anniversary came around, they were granted the ability to build houses outside of India. In 1965, their first outside of India house was built in Venezuela. They soon were building houses all across the world.