Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born August 26, 1910; baptized August 27 in Skopje, in Macedonia. When Agnes was 9, her father died. It was 1919 and Drana had to raise her three children, Aga (1904), Lazar (1907) and Gonxha (1910) alone. They prayed every evening, went to church every day, prayed the rosary every day in may and assisted the service for the Holy Virgin. A great and warm attention went also to the poor and needy who came to knock at the door. During the holidays a stay in the pilgrimage place of Letnice, where Our Lady was venerated, was a custom for the family. Agnes liked to be in church, she liked to read and to pray and to sing. Here mother also took care of an alcoholic women in the neighborhood. She went to wash and feed her twice a day and she also took care of a widow with 6 children. When Drana could not go, Agnes went to do this charitable work. And when the widow died, the children were raised in the house as if they were family. Lazar won a scholarship in Austria, Aga followed commercial school and Agnes went to the Lyceum.
A great part of their time also went to the Legion of Mary. She helped a father, who had difficulties with the language, to teach catechism and read a lot about Slovenian and Croatian missionaries in India. At twelve she felt for the first time the desire to spend her life for Gods’ work, to give it to Him and to let Him decide. But how could she be sure? She prayed a lot over it and talked about it with her sister and her mother. And also the father to whom she confessed she asked: “How can I be sure?” He answered: “through your JOY. If you feel really happy by the idea that God might call you to serve Him, Him and your neighbor, then this is the evidence that you have a call.” And he added: “the deep inner joy that you feel is the compass that indicates your direction in life”. At 18 it is the day. The decision was made. The last two years she assisted several religious retreats in Letnice and it was clear to her that she would be a missionary for India. On Assumption day in 1928 she went to Letnice to pray for Our Lady’s blessing before leaving. She was going to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto, who were very active in India. September 25 she leaves, accompanied to the station by the whole community: friends, schoolmates, neighbors, young and old and of course her mother and her sister Aga (who will be later a translator and a radio speaker). And everybody weeps. (Mainly from the book: “A life: Mother Teresa, Lush Gjergi, Albania). She travels over Zagreb, to Austria, Switzerland, France to London and then to the abbey close to Dublin where the mother house of the Loreto Sisters is. Gonxha learns to speak English and is trained in religious life. She receives the clothes of a sister and chooses the name of Sister Teresa, in memory of the Little Teresa of Lisieux, where they stopped on the way to London. In the mean time her papers get ready and 1928 on December the 1st the crossing to India starts: the country of her dreams. It is a long and tiring journey. Some more sisters are on board but the main group is anglican. For weeks they cannot attend mass or receive communion. Not on Christmas either. But they make a crib, pray the rosary and sing Christmas songs. In the beginning of 1929 they reach Colombo, then Madras and finally Calcutta. The journey continues to Darjeeling, at the feet of the Himalayas, where the young sister will accomplish her training. On may 23, 1929 she is accepted as a novice and two years later she makes her first vows. Immediately after that she is send to Bengali to help the sisters in the little hospital with the care for sick, starving and helpless mothers. She is touched by the endless misery which is there. (A life: Mother Teresa, Lush Gjergi,), (www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/dec1997/editorial.com),
She is send to Calcutta to study to become a teacher. Whenever she can she helps in the care for the sick. When her study is finished, she is named to be teacher and has to cross the city every day. The first work was to clean the classroom. Quickly the children learned to love her for her enthusiasm and her tenderness and their number raised to three hundred. In another part of the city there were one hundred little students. She saw where they lived and what they ate. For her care and her love, they soon called her “ma”. Sundays, whenever there was time, she went to visit this family’s. On may 24 in 1937 she makes her final vows in Darjeeling. She is named headmaster of a secondary school for middle class Bengali girls in the center of Calcutta. She was there teacher for history and geography for some time. Close to the institute is one of the great slums of Calcutta. Sister Teresa cannot close her eyes: who cares for this poor living in the streets? The great charity that speaks through her mothers letters, reminds her of the basic call: to care for the poor. The Legion of Mary is also active in this school. With the girls, Sister Teresa goes regularly to the hospitals, the slums, the poor. They do not only pray. They talk seriously about what they see and what they do. The Belgian Walloon Jesuit, Father Henry, who was the spiritual director, was a great inspiration in this work. He will direct Sister Teresa for years. Under his inspiration the desire grows to do more for the poor, but how?
With all this in her head she leaves for retreat to Darjeeling on the 10th of September. “The most important journey of my life” she said afterwards. It was then that she really heard Gods’ voice. His message was clear: she had to leave the convent to help the poorest of the poor and to live with them. “It was an order, a duty, an absolute certainty. I knew what to do, but I did not know how”. The 10th of September is so important in the Society that this day is called “Inspiration day”. Sister Teresa prayed, talked with some other sisters, asked her superior, who sent her to see the archbishop of Calcutta, Mgr. Perrier. She explained to him her vocation, but he refused her the permission. He talked it over with father Henry, who knew Sister Teresa well. They considered thoroughly the problems: India was about to be independent and Sister Teresa was a European. What were the political and other dangers? Would Rome approve this decision? The bishop told Sister Teresa to pray over this decision for at least a year or to join the Daughters of Saint Anna, sisters wearing a dark blue sari and working among the poor. Sister Teresa did not consider this the right response for her. She wanted to live among the poor. When after a year Sister Teresa renewed her intention, the archbishop wanted to grant her the permission but decided it would be better to ask the permission from Rome and from the mother general in Dublin. This decision took a long time. Decision. In August 1948 she received the permission to leave the Loreto community under the condition to keep the vows of poverty, purity and obedience. She is 38 when she says goodbye to her sisters and religious Loreto robe, to change it for a cheap white and blue sari. First she goes to Patna to follow a nursing training with the sisters there. It is obvious to her that she can only help the poor in their dirty, sickening habitation if she herself knows how to prevent and cure. This medical training is indispensable for the fulfilment of her new call. The superior in Patna, a doctor, gives her good advice when Sister Teresa talks about how she wants to live among the poor and how she wishes to care for them. When Sister Teresa says that she wants to live on rice and salt, like the poor, the superior answers that this would be the best way to hinder herself in following her call: this kind of life demands a strong and good health. Back in Calcutta, Sister Teresa goes in the slums and the streets, to talk with the poor, to help them. All she has is a piece of soap. She helps to wash the babies, to clean the wounds. The poor people are astonished: Who is this European lady in that poor sari? She speaks fluently Bengali! And she helps them wash, clean and care! Soon she starts to teach the poor children how to read and write, how to wash and to have some hygiene. Later it will be possible to hire a small place to make a school. She herself sleeps with the Sisters of the Poor. God is her great refuge for strength and material support. And He is: always she finds the right medicine, clothes, food and a place to receive the poor to be able to help them. At noon children receive a cup of milk and a piece of soap, when they come regularly, but they also hear about God, who is love and who – contrarily to their obvious reality – loves them, really loves them.
One day a Bengalise girl, from a well-off family and former student of Sister Teresa, wants to stay with Sister Teresa and help her. This is a touching moment. But Sister Teresa is realistic: she speaks about the full poverty, about all the disagreeable aspects of the work which is hers. She proposes the girl to wait some time. The 19th of march 1949 the girl comes back with no jewels and in a poor dress. The decision was made. She was the first to join Sister Teresa and took her girls’ name: Agnes. Other girls follow: in may they were three, in November five, next year seven. And Sister Teresa prayed fervently for more vocations to the Lord and to Our Lady. There was a lot of work. The sisters raised early in the morning, prayed a long time, had adoration and attended mass to find in their spiritual life the strength to do the material work in the service of the poor. Thank God, a certain Mister Gomes offered the top floor of his house to Sister Teresa for her first community. In this year also Sister Teresa takes the Indian nationality. Sister Teresa sees the community grow and knows she can think seriously about starting a congregation. For the first constitutions she asks the advice of two from her first helpers: Father Julien Henry s.j. and Father Celest Van Exem s.j. The last reading was done by father P. De Gheldere. The “Constitutions of the Society of the Missionaries of Charity” could be presented to the archbishop, who would send them for approval to Rome. Early in autumn the papal approval arrived and 7th of October 1950, feast of the Holy Rosary, the foundation was celebrated in the chapel of the sisters. The archbishop celebrated mass and father Van Exem read the foundation papers. That moment there were 12 sisters. Every year hundreds of sisters over the world celebrate on the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary the foundation of the Congregation. Not even five years after this day the congregation became papal, this means that they depend straight from the pope. It is basic in the Rule of the Society that the sisters, out of love for Jesus, devote themselves out of their free will, to the service of the poorest of the poor and this is as a fact, their fourth vow. This is their way to live and spread the gospel and work for the salvation and the sanctification of the poor. (A life: Mother Teresa, Lush Gjergi,), (www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/dec1997/editorial.com),
While the number of poor and sick that asked for help was increasing, the admiration for the free devotion of the sisters was growing as well. Find a suitable house to accept the increasing number of sisters was a real necessity. After a novena to Saint Cecilia the solution came: a muslim leaving town to Pakistan sold his big house for a cheap price and this became the famous Mother house, Lower Circular Road 54A. The postulants first came from Bengaly, then from all over India and finally from all over the world. The foundress herself was novice mistress. For the spiritual training she asked one of the fathers, but for the matters of the house and the Community, it was clear, this was not his responsibility. She did not want an interference from outside in the inside matters. The first confession father was father Edward Le Joly s.j. Like the other Jesuits he was from Belgian origin. He had a good contact and a good co-working and wrote some of the first and most respected books about Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity.
While the society grew in work and number Mother kept praying for vocations and the work kept growing. Houses were opening and some closing down from one day to another for one or another political, social or security reason. The society is very much alive and moving. Mother Teresa went all over the world to help people, rescue children, advise her sisters; to organize and to talk. More and more she was asked to address words to a group of sometimes ‘ordinary’ sometimes very exquisite crowds. In spite of the fact that her message is often the same, can be captured in few sentences and that she certainly has many times a quite “traditional” point of view, she is listened to carefully. In spite of her age she continues to search means to help the poor people all over the world and she helps with the means she has. In every continent, even in Russia her sisters are present in their service to the lost, for the love of Jesus. In 1992 by the election of the New Superior general, she is prepared to hand over the responsibility. But she is re-elected. When in 1996 her health starts to fail seriously, due to her heart getting worn out by love and action she expresses the wish not to continue. On march 13th 1997 the assembly of sisters elect Sister Nirmala to continue the beautiful work, for the love of Jesus. On September 5th 1997, late in the evening around 9.30pm, Mother Teresa goes to Heaven in the Mother house in Calcutta. Totally finished and worn out, as she had given herself totally, wholeheartedly, freely and unconditionally to the service of the poorest of the poor, for the love of Jesus.