Mother Teresa

(1910—1997) Roman Catholic nun and missionary

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Albanian-born missionary, subsequently an Indian citizen, who dedicated her life to helping the poor and sick in India and other countries. She was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and in 1980 she received the Bharat Ratna (Star of India); in 1983 she was appointed an honorary member of the OM.

Born in Skopje, now in Macedonia, the daughter of an Albanian grocer, Agnes Bojaxhiu decided at the age of twelve to become a missionary. In 1928 she joined the Sisters of Loretto, a community of Irish nuns in Dublin, and shortly afterwards sailed for India. While acting as principal of St Mary's High School in Calcutta, she was appalled by the living conditions of the city's many destitute people. After some basic training in medicine, she founded her Order of Missionaries of Charity in 1948, which two years later received official recognition from the Catholic Church. The first Nirmal Hriday (Pure Heart) shelter for the dying opened in 1952 and later the leper colony of Shanti Nagar (Town of Peace) was built near Asanol, partly funded by a raffle for the pope's car donated to Mother Teresa by Pope Paul VI on his visit to India in 1964. Her order opened schools, orphanages, clinics, and rehabilitation centres besides the Shishu Bavan homes for retarded, crippled, and abandoned children. Mother Teresa's organization has also operated in many other Indian cities and other deprived regions of the world. In her old age Mother Teresa became an internationally famous and revered figure; although some criticized both her working methods and her adherence to traditional Catholic doctrines on such matters as birth control, to many others she seemed the embodiment of selfless goodness and a living saint. Tough, diminutive, and with a purpose born of an unshakeable Christian conviction, Mother Teresa received numerous awards and prizes for her work, all of which she used to finance her order.

Subjects: History — Christianity.

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