If you were to flip through the pages of a history book, you may only find a handful of women mentioned. Despite the lack of women written about in history, there were, and still are, many strong and influential women that have made a lasting impact on the world. Such is the case with Mother Teresa.
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Mother Teresa, or Saint Teresa of Calcutta, impacted the world in a way few people have done before. She devoted her life to God and the help of others that were outcasted because of wealth, or lack thereof, health, disability, and age. Mother Teresa overcame challenges and stood true to her beliefs for the entirety of her mission.
Born August 26, 1910, in Skopje Macedonia, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu grew up in a faith-devoted family deeply involved in their parish. Her father, Dranafile, died when Agnes was only eight years old, so she became very close with her mother, Nikola. Nikola implanted in Agnes a deep commitment to charity and told Agnes to “never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others.” By the age of twelve, Agnes felt a call from God to lead a faithful life. When she was eighteen years old, she moved to Ireland to join the Sisters of Loreto in Dublin. Here, she took the name Sister Mary Teresa after Saint Therese of Lisieux. A year later, she traveled to India for the novitiate period- a time of training, preparation, and discerning a religious member must undergo prior to taking vows. In May 1931, Sister Mary Teresa made her First Profession of Vows. Sister Mary Teresa was sent to Calcutta following her First Profession where she was to teach at Saint Mary’s High School for Girls. Six years later, on May 24, she took her Final Profession of Vows and upon this, changed her title to Mother Teresa, as was a custom for the Loreto nuns. In 1994, Mother Teresa became the principal of Saint Mary’s and taught the children through her example how to lead a life devoted to God.
On September 10, 1946, Mother Teresa received a second call from God, this time telling her to abandon her job at Saint Mary’s to help aid the poorest and sickest people. Two years later, she finally got official permission to leave her convent. Mother Teresa went through six months of basic medical training, then went right to work. Right away she started an open-air school for the poor and made a home for people who were dying. Mother Teresa along with a few other members founded the Missionaries of Charity. With more and more donations pouring in between the 1950s and 1960s, Mother Teresa established many more services including a leper colony, nursing home, mobile health clinic, family clinic, and an orphanage. In 1971 Mother Teresa made a voyage to New York City to start a house of charity- her first house in America -and secretly in 1982, she went to both Christian East Beirut and Muslim West Beirut in Lebanon to help children from both faiths. Mother Teresa went back to New York in 1985 to speak at the 40th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly and to open the Gift of Love, a home for people who were infected with AIDS.
Mother Teresa accomplished many things in her long, charitable life. She established centers for the sick, the dying, and the poor; she reached out to the outcasted and offered comfort; she traveled all over the world to help less fortunate, and she led by example how to be a good person devoted to Christ. Mother Teresa influenced others to do the same as well. As time went on, more and more people joined the Missionaries of Charity and today there are over one million co-workers for the organization. People recognized Mother Teresa’s work and she was awarded multiple times. She was awarded the Padma Shi from the President of India in August 1962, the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in January 1971, the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1979, and the United States Congressional Gold Medal in June 1997 along with one hundred twenty other awards for her excellence.
Although nobody could tell from her caring and giving persona, Mother Teresa was experiencing challenges with her health and faith throughout her life. Her health slowly deteriorated for many years while she kept traveling and working. On September 5, 1997, at the age of eighty-seven, Mother Teresa died of heart, lung, and kidney problems. Shortly after her death, a book full of letters Mother Teresa wrote to her spiritual advisors was published. The letters revealed she was struggling to find her faith for the last fifty years of her life. She wrote that she felt Jesus had abandoned her and that she was sharing in Christ’s Passion, specifically when Jesus calls out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In one riveting letter, Mother Teresa writes, “Where is my Faith- even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness and darkness- My God- how painful is this unknown pain- I have no Faith- I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd in my heart- and make me suffer untold agony.” Despite feeling lost in her faith, Mother Teresa still lived a devote life with an unwavering commitment to helping others.
Mother Teresa impacted the religious and social aspects of society. She was a faithful woman that directed people to trust in God and follow in Jesus’s example of how to treat people. She reached out and cared for the sick and poor outcasts of society and worked to improve their lives by opening up schools, nursing homes, and shelters. Mother Teresa would be happy with what women are doing today as her charity work was carried out by many other sisters from all over the world. By 1997 the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity numbered around four thousand members and they were established in nearly six hundred foundations in one hundred twenty-three countries and the number continues to grow to this day. Mother Teresa’s ideas and accomplishments have greatly affected the world today. Her organization, the Missionaries of Charity, still reaches out to people in need. But more substantially her example of how one should live a life devoted to their faith has an even bigger impact. Mother Teresa was canonized a saint on September 4, 2016, by Pope Francis and at her canonization, Pope Francis told the crowd “May she be your model of holiness.” Mother Teresa is a wonderful role model and inspiration to others on how to act on behalf of God today.
Through her charitable actions and life-long work for the less fortunate, Mother Teresa impacted the world in a way that few people have done before. Mother Teresa is a very important woman in history and is influential not only to other women but to all people.
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