Mother Teresa was always her own person,
startlingly independent, obedient, yet
challenging some preconceived notions and
expectations. Her own life story includes
many illustrations of her willingness to listen to
and follow her own conscience, even when it
seemed to contradict what was expected.
This strong and independent Slavic woman
was born Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu in
Skopje, Yugoslavia, on August 27, 1910.
Five children were born to Nikola and
Dronda Bojaxhiu, yet only three survived.
Gonxha was the youngest, with an older
sister, Aga, and brother, Lazar.
describes the family’s early years as
“well-off,” not the life of peasants reported
inaccurately by some. “We lacked for
nothing.” In fact, the family lived in one of the
two houses they owned.
Nikola was a contractor, working with a
partner in a successful construction business.
He was also heavily involved in the politics of
the day. Lazar tells of his father’s rather
sudden and shocking death, which may have
been due to poisoning because of his political
With this event, life changed
overnight as their mother assumed total
responsibility for the family, Aga, only 14,
Lazar, 9, and Gonxha, 7.
Though so much of her young life was
centered in the Church, Mother Teresa later
revealed that until she reached 18, she had
never thought of being a nun. During her early
years, however, she was fascinated with
stories of missionary life and service. She
could locate any number of missions on the
map, and tell others of the service being given
in each place.
Called to Religious Life
At 18, Gonxha decided to follow the path
that seems to have been unconsciously
unfolding throughout her life. She chose the
Loreto Sisters of Dublin, missionaries and
educators founded in the 17th century to
educate young girls.
In 1928, the future Mother Teresa began her
religious life in Ireland, far from her family and
the life she’d known, never seeing her mother
again in this life, speaking a language few
understood. During this period a sister novice
remembered her as “very small, quiet and
shy,” and another member of the congregation
described her as “ordinary.” Mother Teresa
herself, even with the later decision to begin
her own community of religious, continued to
value her beginnings with the Loreto sisters
and to maintain close ties. Unwavering
commitment and self-discipline, always a part
of her life and reinforced in her association
with the Loreto sisters, seemed to stay with
her throughout her life.
One year later, in 1929, Gonxha was sent to
Darjeeling to the novitiate of the Sisters of
Loreto. In 1931, she made her first vows
there, choosing the name of Teresa, honoring
both saints of the same name, Teresa of Avila
and Therese of Lisieux. In keeping with the
usual procedures of the congregation and her
deepest desires, it was time for the new Sister
Teresa to begin her years of service to God’s
people. She was sent to St. Mary’s, a high
school for girls in a district of Calcutta.
Here she began a career teaching history and
geography, which she reportedly did with
dedication and enjoyment for the next 15
years. It was in the protected environment of
this school for the daughters of the wealthy
that Teresa’s new “vocation” developed and
grew. This was the clear message, the
invitation to her “second calling,” that Teresa
heard on that fateful day in 1946 when she
traveled to Darjeeling for retreat.
The Streets of Calcutta
During the next two years, Teresa pursued
every avenue to follow what she “never
doubted” was the direction God was pointing
her. She was “to give up even Loreto where I
was very happy and to go out in the streets. I
heard the call to give up all and follow Christ
into the slums to serve him among the poorest
of the poor.”
Technicalities and practicalities abounded.
She had to be released formally, not from her
perpetual vows, but from living within the
convents of the Sisters of Loreto. She had to
confront the Church’s resistance to forming
new religious communities, and receive
permission from the Archbishop of Calcutta
to serve the poor openly on the streets. She
had to figure out how to live and work on the
streets, without the safety and comfort of the
convent. As for clothing, Teresa decided she
would set aside the habit she had worn during
her years as a Loreto sister and wear the
ordinary dress of an Indian woman: a plain
white sari and sandals.
Teresa first went to Patna for a few months to
prepare for her future work by taking a
nursing course. In 1948 she received
permission from Pius XII to leave her
community and live as an independent nun.
So back to Calcutta she went and found a
small hovel to rent to begin her new
Wisely, she thought to start by teaching the
children of the slums, an endeavor she knew
well. Though she had no proper equipment,
she made use of what was available—writing
in the dirt. She strove to make the children of
the poor literate, to teach them basic hygiene.
As they grew to know her, she gradually
began visiting the poor and ill in their families
and others all crowded together in the
surrounding squalid shacks, inquiring about
Teresa found a never-ending stream of human
needs in the poor she met, and frequently was
exhausted. Despite the weariness of her days
she never omitted her prayer, finding it the
source of support, strength and blessing for all
A Movement Begins
Teresa was not alone for long. Within a year,
she found more help than she anticipated.
Many seemed to have been waiting for her
example to open their own floodgates of
charity and compassion. Young women came
to volunteer their services and later became
the core of her Missionaries of Charity.
Others offered food, clothing, the use of
buildings, medical supplies and money. As
support and assistance mushroomed, more
and more services became possible to huge
numbers of suffering people.
From their birth in Calcutta, nourished by the
faith, compassion and commitment of Mother
Teresa, the Missionaries of Charity have
grown like the mustard seed of the Scriptures.
New vocations continue to come from all
parts of the world, serving those in great need
wherever they are found. Homes for the
dying, refuges for the care and teaching of
orphans and abandoned children, treatment
centers and hospitals for those suffering from
leprosy, centers and refuges for alcoholics,
the aged and street people—the list is
Until her death in 1997, Mother Teresa
continued her work among the poorest of the
poor, depending on God for all of her needs.
Honors too numerous to mention had come
her way throughout the years, as the world
stood astounded by her care for those usually
deemed of little value. In her own eyes she
was “God’s pencil—a tiny bit of pencil with
which he writes what he likes.”
Despite years of strenuous physical,
emotional and spiritual work, Mother Teresa
seemed unstoppable. Though frail and bent,
with numerous ailments, she always returned
to her work, to those who received her
compassionate care for more than 50 years.
Only months before her death, when she
became too weak to manage the
administrative work, she relinquished the
position of head of her Missionaries of
Charity. She knew the work would go on.
Finally, on September 5, 1997, after finishing
her dinner and prayers, her weakened heart
gave her back to the God who was the very
center of her life.
Cite this Who was Mother Theresa
Who was Mother Theresa. (2018, Oct 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/who-was-mother-theresa-essay/