Mother Teresa was one of the great servants of humanity who stood as the icon of peace, love and compassion. Her selfless work among the poverty-stricken people received worldwide recognition. Her determination to serve the poor and needy fetched her about 124 prestigious awards, including ‘Padmashree Award’ (in 1962 from the President of India), ‘John F. Kennedy International Award (1971), ‘Bharat Ratna’ , ‘Order of Merit’ from Queen Elizabeth, ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ (1979), The Pope John XXIII Peace Prize’, ‘Medal of Freedom’ (the highest US Civilian award) and many more. Love, humanity and helping others selflessly were her reasons to live on Earth.
Mother Teresa’s original name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She was born on August 27, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia. Her father was a successful merchant and she was youngest of the three siblings. At the age of 12, she decided that she wanted to be a missionary and spread the love of Christ. At the age of 18 she left her parental home in Skopje and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India.
On May 24, 1931, she took her initial vows as a nun. From 1931 to 1948, Mother Teresa taught Geography and Catechism at St. Mary’s High School in Kolkata. However, the prevailing poverty in Kolkata had a deep impact on Mother Teresa’s mind and in 1948, she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Kolkata. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata. Later on she attained Indian citizenship.
During the last years of her life, despite increasingly severe health problems, Mother Teresa continued to govern her Society and respond to the needs of the poor and the Church. By 1997, Mother Teresa’s Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members and were working in 610 foundations in 123 countries across the world. In March 1997 she blessed her newly-elected successor as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity and then made one more trip abroad. After meeting Pope John Paul II for the last time, she returned to Kolkata and spent her final weeks receiving visitors and instructing her Sisters. On 5 September Mother Teresa’s earthly life came to an end. She was given the honour of a state funeral by the Government of India and her body was buried in the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity.
Her grave quickly became a place of pilgrimage and prayer for people of all beliefs, rich and poor as well. Mother Teresa left a testament of unshakable faith, invincible hope and extraordinary charity. Her response to Jesus’ plea, “Come be My light,” made her a Missionary of Charity, a “mother to the poor,” a symbol of compassion to the world, and a living witness to the thirsting love of God.
The death of Mother Teresa was a huge loss to humanity. The whole of Mother Teresa’s life and labor bore witness to the joy of loving, the greatness and dignity of every individual, the value of little things done faithfully and with love, and surpassing worth of friendship with God. But there was another heroic side of this great woman that was revealed only after her death. Hidden from all eyes, hidden even from those closest to her, was her interior life marked by an experience of a deep, painful and abiding feeling of being separated from God, along with an ever-increasing longing for His love. She called her inner experience, “the darkness.” Through the night she mystically attended the desire of God, in His agonizing and burning desiring love, and she distributed in the inner desolation of the poor.