Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhi
Mother Teresa was
born in Skopje in what is now The Former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia on August 27, 1910. Her original name was Agnes Gonxha
Bojaxhiu. Her father, who was of Albanian descent, ran a small
At the age of
twelve, while attending a Roman Catholic elementary school, she
records that she knew she had a vocation to help the poor. She
decided to train for missionary work, and a few years later made
India her choice.
At the age of
eighteen she left the parental home in Skopje and joined the Sisters
of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with a mission in Calcutta.
After a few months' training in Dublin she was sent to India, where
in 1928 she took her initial vows as a nun.
From 1929 to 1948
Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary's High School in Calcutta, but
the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls
made such a deep impression on her that in 1946 she received permission
from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself
to working among the poor in the slums of Calcutta.
Although she had
no funds, she started an open-air school for homeless children.
Soon she was joined by voluntary helpers, and financial support
was also forthcoming from various church organisations, as well
as from the municipal authorities. This made it possible for her
to extend the scope of her work, and on October 7, 1950, she received
permission to start her own order "The Missionaries of Charity",
whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody
was prepared to look after.
In 1979 she received
the Nobel Peace Prize, "for work undertaken in the struggle to
overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to
peace." After being told of the honor, she replied, "I am
unworthy." By this time her order had grown to 1,800 nuns and
120,000 lay workers, who operated nearly 200 centers and homes. She
intervened between the warring factions in Beirut in 1982, and
arranged a cease fire to rescue nearly 40 mentally ill children.
Being prevented from visiting Albania by the communist regime, she
visited several times during recent years.
In 1988, she went
to visit her mother's and sister's graves in Shkodra. Her last
visit was in 1993, when on April 25th, she attended the inauguration
ceremony of the Great Cathedral in Shkodra, alongside Pope John-Paul
II. She visited Kosova in 1980.
Eight of her charity
houses operate in Albania and two in Kosova. The largest charity
organization in Kosova carries her name. She was hospitalized
several times in 1996 with heart, lung, kidney and other problems,
and suffered ill health in earlier years. She indicated her
intention to resign as head of her order in 1990, due to failing
health. Because of disagreements on her successor, she remained as
head of the order until March, 1996, when she stepped down and was
replaced by Sister Nermala.
She died on
September 5th, 1997, in Calcutta, India, after suffering cardiac
arrest. She was 87. Her order currently has 4,000 nuns and novices,
400 priests and brothers and hundreds of thousands of volunteers,
working at over 450 sites around the world.
Teresa was recognized
all over the world and she received many awards which
can be listed in the following manner :
1962: The Magsaysay
Award for International Understanding along with a cheque
of 50,000 rupees. She used this award money to buy the Children's
Home in Agra.
In 1962, she also
received India's second highest award the 'Padma Shri', from
the President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
In January 1971, Pope
Paul VI presented her with a cheque worth £10,000 given by the
Vatican as the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize. She received
the cheque and donated it for the construction of a leper colony
in Madhya Pradesh on land donated by the Indian Government.
On October 13, of
the same year Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation presented her with
an award in Washington. The award was made up of a heavy glass
vase engraved with a figure of St. Raphael the Archangel and inscribed
with the increasingly familiar words : "To Mother Teresa, whose
struggles have shaped something beautiful for God."
In November, 1972,
she was given the Nehru Award for international understanding
by the Indian government. The Award consisted of a citation describing
her as "one of the most impressive manifestations of charity
throughout the world". It stated further that she had inspired
a large number of devoted people all over the world to work with
her in the service of the destitute, the uncared and helpless
people of the society.
In 1973, Mother
Teresa was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in
Religion, which made her the first recipient of this Prize. She was
selected out of a total of two thousand nominations by a panel of
judges representing the major religious traditions of the world,
including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
In 1974, the Prime
Minister of the Yemen Arab Republic presented her with a 'Sword
In March, 1975, the
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization struck its Ceres
Medals in recognition of Mother's "exemplary love and concern
for the hungry and the poorest of the poor". The Medal showed
Mother Teresa representing the Roman Goddess of
In June, 1975, Mother
Teresa was awarded the Voice of America's International Women's
Year Pin for her work for the poor in India.
On October 23, 1975,
she became a recipient of one of the first Albert Schweitzer
International Prizes, awarded at the University of North Carolina,
On November 2, 1975,
she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, at a special
ceremony at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova
In the same year (International Women's Year), Shirley
Williams, the then Secretary of State for Consumer Protection
in the British government, and Maurice Strong, executive director
of The United Nations Environment Program, Senator Edward Kennedy
and Robert McNamara, head of the World Bank, added their support
to the nomination of Mother Teresa for the Nobel Peace Prize.
On March 3, 1976,
Mrs. Indira Gandhi, as chancellor of the Vishwa Bharti University,
conferred on Mother Teresa the University's highest honor, 'The
Deshikottama' (Doctor of Literature) scarf in recognition
of her significant contribution to the cause of human suffering.
Mrs. Gandhi commented on her, "She is tiny to look at, but
there is nothing small about her."
In June, 1977, She
was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the
University of Cambridge.
On October 17, 1979,
she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with a cheque for
On December 8, 1979,
Mother Teresa landed at Oslo's international airport accompanied
by Sister Agnes and Sister Gertrude. She had politely refused
the heavy coats and fur-lined boots to protect against a temperature
of minus ten degrees Celsius offered her by the Nobel committee.
She requested cancellation of the celebratory banquet and said
that the money should be used for those who were really in need
of a meal. Thus, the $4,000 that was to be spent for the banquet
and further $50,000 raised by Norwegian young people were added
to her prize money. More than one thousand people welcomed her.
She was given a reception the moment she landed at Oslo, by the
Indian Ambassador in Norway. She was grateful for the prize as
it would provide housing for the homeless and for leper families.
Moreover, she was specially grateful for the "gift of recognition
of the poorest of the poor of the world".
On December 10,
1979, in the presence of King Olaf V of Norway, Crown Prince Harald,
Crown Princess Sonja, and many other dignitaries, Mother Teresa
accepted the gold medal and the money, as she had accepted all
other honors, 'unworthily' but "gratefully in the name
of poor, the hungry, the sick and the lonely".
She was further
honored by the Indian Government in 1980, as she became one of
the only three Indian nationals ever to receive a Nobel Prize.
She was also one of the only three Indians ever to have been honored
with an official reception within the ramparts of Delhi's historic
Red Fort. The other two recipients were Jawarlahal Nehru and his
daughter Indira Gandhi. In the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Presidential
Palace in New Delhi, the President of India, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy,
gave her India's highest civilian award, the 'Bharat Ratna'
or 'Jewel of India'.
In the same year
she was awarded the gold medal of the official Soviet Peace Committee.
On November 24,
1983, Mother Teresa was presented with the insignia of the Honorary
Order of Merit, by Queen Elizabeth II at the Presidential Palace
On June 20, 1985,
at the White House in Washington, the then U.S. President, Ronald
Reagan presented her with the United States Presidential Medal
of Freedom, calling her a 'heroine of our times'. He declared
that "the goodness in some hearts transcends all borders and
all narrow nationalistic considerations".
On October 27 of the
same year, she was honored at the National Shrine of the Immaculate
Conception in Washington, when Cardinal O'Boyle, Chairman of the
Shrine's Committee, presented her with a monetary gift on behalf of
the thousand of visitors to the Shrine.
On July, 1987, the
film 'Mother Teresa' made by two American sisters, Ann and Jeanette
Petric, was awarded the Soviet Peace Committee Prize during the 15th
International Film Festival held in Moscow.
On March 28, Yasser
Arafat, President of the Palestine Liberation organization, presented
her with a cheque of US $50,000. He invited her to the Holy Land
and asked her to open 'Death with Dignity' homes in Bethlehem
In August, 1992,
in New York, she received the Knights of St. Columbanus' Gaudium
et Spes (Hope and Joy) Award from Cardinal John O' Connor.
On August, 1992, she
was awarded with an honorary fellowship of the Royal College of
Surgeons in Ireland.
On December, 1992,
in Kolkata, she received the United Nations cultural agency's peace
education award to "crown a life consecrated to the service of
the poor, to the promotion of peace and to combating injustice".
She was presented a cheque of £ 50,000 by the UNESCO director
general. The money was used by her to set up a home for the
handicapped near Kolkata.
In the same year,
the communist President of Albania, Mr. Ramiz Alia, awarded Albanian
citizenship to Mother Teresa, who had once been forced to take
a sad decision of not visiting her dying mother in her homeland
as she wanted to serve the poor of the world. Mr. Alia also created
a 'Mother Teresa Prize' to be awarded to those who distinguished
themselves in the field of humanitarian and charitable work.
In January, 1993,
she received the papal award 'Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice'.
In October, 1994,
she received the 'U Thant Peace Award' for her 'Tireless
Service to humanity'.
On May 16, 1997,
she was awarded a United States Congressional gold medal in recognition
of her "outstanding and enduring contributions to humanitarian
and charitable activities.
Visit: Mother Teresa Official Web