CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on 26th august 1910, at the 14 Pop Kochina Street, at what is now main square Macedonia. She was the youngest child in the family. She had an oldest sister Aga and older brother Lazar. Aga was born in 1904, and Lazar in 1907. Information on her father’s origin remains vague. According to some records he was a merchant, according to others a pharmacy assistant. He was also on the Skopje City Council, where he was the only Catholic member. He died in 1919. Her mother, Drana, was a housewife and an extremely religious woman. She came from the Bernaj family in Prizren. Drana’s father was a merchant and owner of a large estate..
Bojaxhiu family was a wealthy family and they had one cardinal rule – to help everybody who needs help. Drana was very hard-working woman. Following the death of her husband, she took up sewing and embroidering, in order to make a secure life for her children.
It was said that her father had chosen the name Gonxha, an old Turkish name meaning rose bud. She started school when she was seven, first attending the church school at “Sacred Heart of Jesus”, and later on the state school. She received her first Communion at the Catholic Church in Skopje. In the same church she was baptized just one day after she was born. Gonxha played the mandolin and sang in the choir, acted in the church and city theaters, danced, recited, wrote poetry.
At the beginning of the XXth century, the Catholic Church Sacred heart of Jesus in Skopje was led by the Jesuits. Father Franjo Jamrekovic, often was reading letters from the missionaries from India and Africa, to the believers. He was vividly explaining to them about the life of the missionaries.
In this way he played a major role in the decision of the young Gondza to leave for India and to dedicate her life to God.
The final decision to leave Skopje, Gonxha made when she received a call from God when she was 12 years old.
The Sisters known as the Loreto Sisters belong to the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary founded in 1609 by a twenty-four-year-old woman, Mary Ward. Mary Ward and her first companions established their first school at St Omer (now in France) in a house, which is still there, although it is now a private residence.
Today the congregation is engaged in a wide variety of new ministries: literacy programmes, spiritual direction, counseling, managing shelters for homeless women as well as several aspects of the movement for greater justice and peace in the world. They are active in every continent. The Loreto Sisters operate some 150 schools worldwide, educating over 70,000 students.
At the age of eighteen, moved by a desire to become a missionary, Gonxha left her home and her home town Skopje to join the Sisters of Loreto, in Dublin, Ireland. There she chose the name Teresa after her patron St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She learned English there, because English was the language the Sisters of Loreto used to teach schoolchildren in India. Although her stay in Dublin was short, the sisters remember her as “very small, shy and quiet.”
On 1st of December 1928 she leaves for India by ship. During her traveling she wrote the song “Farewell” (originally written on Croatian – “Oproshtaj”) in which she expresses her thoughts and feelings about her home town and family and about the distant and unknown India. She arrives in Calcutta, India on 6th of January 1929.
On 25th of May 1931 she gives her first vows as Sister Teresa in Darjeeling and teaches geography and catechism in St. Mary’s School in Calcutta.
MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY
On 10th of September 1946 during her travelling to Darjeeling receives “call within a call” – an inspiration to leave the Loreto convent and to start taking care for the sick and poor.
On 12th of April 1948 she receives a decree by Pope Pius XII – a permission from Vatican to start her mission among the poorest of the poor.
On 7th of October 1950 the Society of the Missionaries Sisters of Charity – at that time 12 members – is officially established as a diocesan congregation. In 1965 the Missionaries of Charity receive pontifical recognition.
On 25th of March she establishes Missionaries of Charity Brothers.
Now, there are more than 5000 active Missionaries Sisters in more than 137 countries around the world.
BEATIFICATION AND CANONISATION
After several years of deteriorating health, in which she suffered from heart and lung problems, Mother Teresa died on 5th of September 1997, at the age of 87. On 13th of September, as a token of gratitude the Indian government organized a state funeral.
Two years after her death, the Pope John Paul II, starts the diocesan phase of the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Mother Teresa.
On 19th of October 2003 the Pope John Paul II declares Mother Teresa “Blessed”.
On 17th of December 2015, Pope Francis approved the second miracle needed for Mother Teresa to be declared a saint.
On 4th of September 2016, one day before the anniversary of her death (5th September 1997), the Pope Francis declares Mother Teresa “Saint”.
During her life, Mother Teresa receives more than 700 prizes for her charity work and she is the most awarded person in the XXth century.
Most important prizes and awards:
- 11th of August 1962 – Padma Shri Award, from the President of India
- 31st of August 1962 – Ramon Magsaysay Award, in the Philippines
- 6th of January 1971 – Pope Paul VI presents her with the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize
- 16th of October 1971 – John f. Kennedy International Award
- 15th of November 1972 – Jawaharlal Nehru Award
- 25th of April 1973 – Templeton prize for her extraordinary efforts to help the homeless and neglected children of Calcutta
- 1977 – Honorary PhD in Theology, University of Cambridge, England
- 1978 – Award from the Balzan Foundation for humanity and peace among peoples
- 10th of December 1979 – Nobel Peace Prize
- 22nd of March 1980 – Award Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India)
- 27th of June 1980 – Presented with the Medal of Merits of the town of Skopje
- 24th of October 1983 – Queen Elizabeth II presents her with the Order of Merit
- 1985 – President of USA Ronald Reagan presents her with the Presidential medal of Freedom
- 1996 – Honorary citizen of the USA
- 5th of June 1997 – United States Congressional Gold Medal