Heroes Diary: Mother Teresa Woman of selfless service

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HEROES DIARY

Name: Mother Teresa

Date of Birth: August 26, 1910

Date of Death: September 5, 1997

Years spent: 87 years, 10 days

Country of Birth: Macedonia

Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world. She spent many years in Calcutta, India where she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation devoted to helping those in great need. In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and became a symbol of charitable, selfless work.

Mother Teresa was born in 1910 in Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. Little is known about her early life, but at a young age, she felt a calling to be a nun and serve through helping the poor. At the age of 18, she was given permission to join a group of nuns in Ireland. After a few months of training, with the Sisters of Loreto, she was then given permission to travel to India.

On her arrival in India, she began by working as a teacher; however, the widespread poverty of Calcutta made a deep impression on her, and this led to her starting a new order called “The Missionaries of Charity”. The primary objective of this mission was to look after people, who nobody else was prepared to look after. Mother Teresa felt that serving others was a fundamental principle of the teachings of Jesus Christ. She often mentioned the saying of Jesus,

“Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.”

As Mother Teresa said herself:

“Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service .” – Mother Teresa

She experienced two particularly traumatic periods in Calcutta. The first was the Bengal famine of 1943 and the second was the Hindu/Muslim violence in 1946, before the partition of India. In 1948, she left the convent to live full-time among the poorest of Calcutta. She chose to wear a white Indian sari, with a blue border, out of respect for the traditional Indian dress. For many years, Mother Teresa and a small band of fellow nuns survived on minimal income and food, often having to beg for funds. But, slowly her efforts with the poorest were noted and appreciated by the local community and Indian politicians.

In 1952, she opened her first home for the dying, which allowed people to die with dignity. Mother Teresa often spent time with those who were dying. Some have criticised the lack of proper medical attention, and their refusal to give painkillers. Others say that it afforded many neglected people the opportunity to die knowing that someone cared.

Her work spread around the world. By 2013, there were 700 missions operating in over 130 countries. The scope of their work also expanded to include orphanages and hospices for those with terminal illnesses.

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

- Mother Teresa

In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitutes a threat to peace.” She didn’t attend the ceremonial banquet but asked that the $192,000 fund be given to the poor.

In later years, she was more active in western developed countries. She commented that though the West was materially prosperous, there was often a spiritual poverty. Over the last two decades of her life, Mother Teresa suffered various health problems, but nothing could dissuade her from fulfilling her mission of serving the poor and needy. Until her very last illness she was active in travelling around the world to the different branches of The Missionaries of Charity.

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