Mother Teresa Biography | Death, Awards, Quotes, Family & Facts

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Mother Teresa, born Anjez Gonxhe Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Ottoman Empire, dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor. Her path from a young child in the Ottoman Empire to the Catholic Church’s canonization of Saint Teresa of Calcutta demonstrates her continuous commitment to humanitarian work. In this article, we delve into the Mother Teresa Biography, Awards, life and global impact.

Quick Facts about Mother Teresa Biography

Full NameAnjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu
BornAugust 26, 1910, in Skopje, Ottoman Empire (Now North Macedonia)
Religious AffiliationAlbanian-Indian Catholic Nun
Founder ofMissionaries of Charity
CanonizationSaint Teresa of Calcutta – Canonized by the Catholic Church on September 4, 2016
VowsChastity, Poverty, Obedience, and a fourth vow: to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”
Key Awards1962 Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize, 1979 Nobel Peace Prize
ControversiesCriticized for views on abortion and contraception; scrutiny of conditions in her homes for the dying
Languages SpokenFluent in Bengali, Albanian, Serbian, English, and Hindi
Global ImpactMissionaries of Charity expanded to 133 countries, operating 517 missions by 1996
LegacyInternational Day of Charity designated by the UN on the anniversary of her death; commemorated through museums and more
DeathSeptember 5, 1997, in Calcutta, India

Early Life and Spiritual Calling:

Anjez Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, later known as Mother Teresa, was born on August 26, 1910, into a Kosovar Albanian family in Skopje, then part of the Ottoman Empire and today the capital of North Macedonia. She was baptised the day after her birth and later considered August 27 to be her “true birthday.”

Growing up as the youngest child of Nikoll and Dranafile Bojaxhiu, Anjez’s early years were shaped by her father’s involvement in Albanian community politics. Her father died when she was only eight years old, which was tragic. Despite their loss, the Bojaxhiu family remained connected to their roots, with her father originally from Prizren in Kosovo and her mother probably from a town near Gjakova.

The Call to Mission: Anjezë’s Early Years and Spiritual Conviction”

Anjez’s interest in the lives of missionaries and their service in Bengal began in her childhood. By the age of 12, she was certain that her life’s mission was to devote herself to a monastic life. And follow in the footsteps of those who dedicated themselves to helping others. This commitment was strengthened on August 15, 1928, when she worshipped at the shrine of the Black Madonna of Vitina-Letnice, a pilgrimage site she frequented.

Anjez left her home at the age of 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto in Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland, leaving behind her family in Skopje. Her decision was motivated by a desire to acquire English, the language of instruction for the Loreto Sisters in India, to become a missionary. This was the final time she would see her mother and sister. Her family continued to live in Tirana without her physical presence after she relocated there in 1934.

Anjez began her novitiate in Darjeeling, nestled in the lower Himalayas, after arriving in India in 1929. She immersed herself in Bengali studies and taught at St. Teresa’s School, which was close to her convent. On May 24, 1931, she made her first religious vows and selected the name, Teresa, after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missions. This selection was fraught with complications, as another nun had already chosen the name Therese. Anjez, undeterred, chose the Spanish spelling, Teresa.

The Transformative Journey: From Teacher to Mother

Teresa made her solemn vows as a teacher at the Loreto convent school in Entally, eastern Calcutta, on May 14, 1937. According to Loreto tradition, she assumed the title ‘Mother.’ Though she enjoyed teaching, the poverty that surrounded her in Calcutta bothered her. The Bengal famine of 1943, as well as the violence on Direct Action Day in August 1946, fueled her determination to alleviate the suffering of the underprivileged.

During a visit to Darjeeling in 1946, Mother Teresa felt a deep calling from her inner conscience to serve the poor in India for Jesus. This watershed moment caused her to leave the school. In 1950, she created the Missionaries of Charity, donning a white sari with two blue borders as the order’s uniform. This was the start of a unique journey dedicated to giving unconditional free service to the “poorest of the poor.”

Founding Missionaries of Charity:

Mother Teresa’s decision to leave the comfort of her teaching position at the Loreto convent in Calcutta in 1946 signalled the beginning of an incredible chapter in her life. She sought permission to quit the school after feeling a call to assist the poor in India for Jesus on a train ride in Darjeeling. It was a decision that would plant the seeds of the Missionaries of Charity, a global emblem of compassion and unselfish service.

Mother Teresa officially formed the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, using the distinctive white sari with two blue borders as the order’s uniform. The simplicity of their clothing emphasised the mission’s humility and purity of purpose. The blue borders represented Mother Teresa’s universal love and compassion, reaching out to people of all races, religions, and origins.

Mother Teresa Picture

Missionaries of Charity’s Humble Beginnings

The Missionaries of Charity began with a simple goal but a big heart to care for and comfort individuals who had been neglected and abandoned by society. The poorest of the poor were initially prioritised, including people suffering from terminal illnesses like HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis. Members of the congregation took vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, as well as a fourth vow to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

The Missionaries of Charity, led by Mother Teresa, constructed homes for the dying, where those nearing the end of their lives may find solace and dignity. These homes were not just places of physical care, but also sanctuaries of love and compassion. Where people might feel a sense of belonging and humanity in their final hours.

The Missionaries of Charity expanded their operations as they grew in size. The group established soup kitchens, dispensaries, and mobile clinics to meet the immediate needs of the people they served. They also participated in children’s and family counselling programmes. Recognising the value of holistic care for people confronting issues other than physical ailments.

Empowering Through Education: A Vision Beyond Borders

Orphanages and schools became key aspects of the Missionaries of Charity’s mission, as they sought to empower individuals through education as well as alleviate suffering. Mother Teresa believed in tackling the underlying causes of poverty and in providing opportunities for a better life via education and training.

The Missionaries of Charity had reached 133 countries by 2012, with over 4,500 sisters dedicated to the cause. The influence of their work was tremendous, touching the lives of many people in desperate situations. The Missionaries of Charity was a witness to the transformational power of compassion. Demonstrating that a small group of committed persons could effect significant change in the world.

Mother Teresa’s vision for the Missionaries of Charity was not limited by geography. She was fluent in five languages and made humanitarian excursions outside of India on occasion. Mother Teresa was constant in her dedication to aiding those in need. Even in the face of criticism and pressure, such as during her visit to Troubles-era Belfast in 1971.

Global Impact and Unyielding Resolve:

The Missionaries of Charity became a light of hope, assisting in a variety of global situations. Notably, during the Siege of Beirut in 1982, Mother Teresa arranged a temporary cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian rebels. Aallowing 37 children imprisoned in a front-line hospital to be evacuated.

Mother Teresa’s unwavering commitment took her to Eastern Europe in the late 1980s.Where she expanded her efforts to countries that had previously rejected the Missionaries of Charity. Despite being chastised for her views on abortion and divorce. She persisted with her purpose, saying, “No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your work.”

The Missionaries of Charity became a symbol of action-oriented compassion that transcended religious and cultural divides. Mother Teresa’s leadership and the congregation’s selfless service reverberated around the world, inspiring many to join the cause. By 1996, the Missionaries of Charity had 517 missions spread throughout more than 100 countries. With thousands of sisters dedicated to serving the “poorest of the poor.”

Global Expansion and Enduring Legacy

The congregation’s global growth was marked by the establishment of the first Missionaries of Charity residence in the United States, in the South Bronx neighbourhood of New York City. By 1984, they had 19 locations around the country, indicating the mission’s national reach.

Mother Teresa’s life demonstrated the transformative power of compassion and the immense impact that one person motivated by love and service might have on the world. Under her direction, the Missionaries of Charity became living embodiments of her philosophy.

“Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

The legacy of the Missionaries of Charity endures as a reminder that, in the face of adversity and suffering, love and compassion have the power to bring about meaningful change. Mother Teresa’s vision and the Missionaries of Charity continue to inspire generations to live a life of purpose, empathy, and service to humanity.

International Humanitarian Efforts:

Mother Teresa, who spoke five languages, went on humanitarian missions outside of India. During the Siege of Beirut in 1982, she arranged a cease-fire to rescue 37 children besieged in a hospital. In the late 1980s, despite criticism, she expanded her activities to Communist countries. By 1996, the Missionaries of Charity had 517 missions worldwide, providing relief to the poor.

Controversies and Criticisms:

Mother Teresa was respected for her philanthropic efforts, but she was chastised for her views on abortion and contraception. As well as the circumstances at her hospices for the dying. Despite controversy, her contribution to worldwide humanitarian endeavours was unquestionable. Winning her awards such as the Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize in 1962 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Film and Literature: Mother Teresa Biography

CategoryTitle and Details
Documentary Film and BookSomething Beautiful for God (1969) – Malcolm Muggeridge’s documentary and book draw attention to Mother Teresa, credited with capturing the Western world’s focus on her impactful work.
Documentary FilmHell’s Angel (1994) -Christopher Hitchens’ documentary questions Mother Teresa’s attitude, claiming she taught the impoverished to accept their fate while portraying the wealthy as God’s favourites. Hitchens’ essay, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practise, was inspired by this.
Short Documentary FilmsMother of The Century (2001) and Mother Teresa (2002) – Directed by Amar Kumar Bhattacharya, these films explore Mother Teresa’s life and work among the poor in India, produced by the Films Division of the Government of India.
Recent Documentary FilmMother Teresa: No Greater Love (2022) – A documentary featuring rare access to archives, showcasing her vision and the implementation of her mission through the Missionaries of Charity.
Television SeriesBible Ki Kahaniyan – Mother Teresa appeared in this Indian Christian series in the early 1990s, introducing episodes that emphasized the importance of the Bible’s message.
Dramatic Films and MiniseriesMother Teresa: In the Name of God’s Poor (1997) – Geraldine Chaplin played Mother Teresa, receiving an Art Film Festival award. – Mother Teresa of Calcutta (2003) – Olivia Hussey portrayed her in an Italian miniseries, re-released in 2007, and awarded a CAMIE award. – The Letters (2014) – Juliet Stevenson played Mother Teresa in this film based on her letters to Vatican priest Celeste van Exem.
YouTube Rap BattleEpic Rap Battles of History (2019) – Mother Teresa, played by Cara Francis (FantasyGrandma), engages in a rap battle with Sigmund Freud in this comedy rap YouTube series.
Animated FilmSoul (2020) – Mother Teresa briefly appears as one of 22’s past mentors in this animated film.
Recent Film (2022)Mother Teresa & Me (or Kavita & Teresa) – A film by Kamal Musale portraying Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta, featuring Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz as Mother Teresa.
MusicalTeresa, la Obra en Musical (2004) – An Argentine musical based on the life of Mother Teresa.

Declining Health and Legacy:

Mother Teresa’s health deteriorated in her later years. She resigned as head of the Missionaries of Charity in 1997 due to heart problems, malaria, and a fractured collarbone, and died on September 5. Her funeral in Calcutta drew international attention, demonstrating her enormous impact on both secular and religious societies.

Legacy and Commemorations:

Mother Teresa’s legacy lives on through the Missionaries of Charity, which at the time of her death had over 610 missions in 123 countries. She is remembered in museums, churches, and even an international airport in Albania. The United Nations established the International Day of Charity on the anniversary of her death to honour her lifelong commitment to serving humanity.


Mother Teresa’s life story is one of selflessness, compassion, and unselfish service to others. She left an indelible effect on the world, from her early years in the Ottoman Empire to the creation of the Missionaries of Charity and her global humanitarian endeavours. While she was surrounded by scandals, her legacy as a beacon of love and compassion continues to inspire generations. Mother Teresa’s biography is more than a historical record; it is also a timeless lesson on the power of empathy and the impact one person can have on the lives of countless others.

FAQs about Mother Teresa Biography

Who was Mother Teresa, and what is her significance in history?

Mother Teresa, also known as Anjez Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, was an Albanian-Indian Catholic nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity. She is historically notable for her dedicated service to the poorest of the poor, and the Catholic Church canonised her as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

What led Mother Teresa to become a nun and start the Missionaries of Charity?

Mother Teresa felt compelled to enter the monastic life from a young age. She travelled to India after joining the Loreto Sisters in Ireland. After witnessing great poverty in Calcutta, she formed the Missionaries of Charity in response to what she believed was a spiritual mission to aid the poor.

What were the main activities of the Missionaries of Charity?

Mother Teresa formed the Missionaries of Charity, which worked in a variety of charity works. They ran hospices for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis. They also maintained soup kitchens, dispensaries, mobile clinics, children’s and family counselling programmes, orphanages, and schools while abiding by vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and unselfish service.

How did Mother Teresa handle controversies during her lifetime?

Mother Teresa was chastised for her opinions on abortion and contraception, as well as the circumstances at her hospices. Despite the controversies, she stayed committed to aiding the disadvantaged. Her response was humble, with the words, “No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work.”

What is Mother Teresa’s legacy, and how is she commemorated today?

Mother Teresa’s legacy goes on through the Missionaries of Charity’s global efforts. Her memory lives on in museums, churches, and an international airport. The United Nations established the International Day of Charity on the anniversary of her death to honour her lifelong commitment to serving humanity. Mother Teresa’s life continues to inspire people all around the world to practise compassion and unselfish service.


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