“Keep the joy of loving the poor and share this joy with all you meet.”
This was one of the sayings of Mother Teresa of Calcutta; popularly called Saint of the Gutters.
Canonizing her 19 years after her death on September 5 1997, Pope Francis on September 4 stated that her feast will be marked every September 5 as a commemoration of her simple life and the countless lessons it contained for every generation.
Born on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia in the former Yugoslavia, Saint Teresa was named Agnes Bojaxhiu by her parents Dronda and Nikola Bojaxhiu.
The youngest of three surviving children, she decided to become a Catholic Missionary nun at age 17, due to the interest she developed for the missionary work while part of a group, Sodality, she joined in her teens.
Consequently, the teenage Agnes joined an Irish order, the sisters of Loretto, whose missionary work was more prevalent to India where she chose the name Teresa, after Therese of Lisieux; who is known today as Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
As part of her missionary work, St. Teresa taught Geography and Catechism at Saint Mary’s High School, Calcutta in India.
She however came down with Tuberculosis and was taken to Darjeeling, a town in India’s West Bengal state where in 1944 she told the church that she received an unmistakable call to live among the poor.
“I was to leave the convent and work with the poor, living among them. It was an order. I knew where I belonged but I did not know how to get there,” she would later recollect.
Four years later in 1948, Teresa was granted permission to leave the convent and attend to the call, under the supervision of the Archbishop of Calcutta.
She soon began teaching children in the slums and studied basic medicine which helped her to go about the slums, treating sick persons.
A year later, some of her pupils joined her and together they rented a room apartment to cater for those rejected by local hospitals.
The group of care-givers, led by Mother Teresa soon became a congregation within the Catholic Church, popularly known as the Missionaries of Charity.
The Missionaries of Charity which was formally established in 1950 now has over 4 500 sisters and is spread across 133 countries.
Apart from her unwavering desire to help the poor, Mother Teresa was also known for her unrelenting stand against abortion.
She received a total of 124 notable awards in her lifetime; including the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1979.
Sayings of Mother Teresa
“The dying, the cripple, the mental, the unwanted, the unloved; they are Jesus in disguise.
“Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing.
“There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God.
“Nakedness is not only for a piece of clothing; nakedness is lack of human dignity and also that beautiful virtue of purity, and lack of that respect for each other.