Mother Teresa popularly known as the ‘Saint of the Gutters’, today stands as the brightest star in the horizon of the great personalities of the world. She epitomises service, kindness, dedication and love for the poor and the abandoned. Today, most people consider her as a ‘saint of our times,’ an ‘angel in human flesh’, and ‘a beacon in the world of darkness’.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, later known as ‘Mother Teresa was born on Aug. 26, 1910 at Skopje in former Yugoslavia, in a devout catholic family. At an early age itself Agnes wanted to become a nun. In 1928, she joined a convent and later she was sent to India, first to Darjeeling and then to Kolkata to teach at the Loreto School in the city.
For almost seventeen years she led a sheltered life teaching history and geography. Then one day while returning from a visit, she saw the slums of Kolkata. The sight broke her heart. She was appalled by the misery which she saw.
The sight disturbed her mind and made her sleepless for days. She wanted to do something to alleviate the suffering of the poor of the city. She knew that her society would not permit such a work. She prayed deeply for Gods guidance and direction.
Finally, on the 10th September, 1937, during a train journey to Darjeeling, she heard the voice of God telling her to leave the convent and to go out and serve his abandoned children. Since then she did not look back. She felt it as an order.
She left her sheltered life of the convent on 18th Aug. 1948 and started her new mission. She began her work with a school for slum children of Kolkata. She adopted as her dress a simple white sari with blue borders and with a cross pined at the shoulder. Her first helper, a young Bengali girl joined her in 1949.
Gradually, many young girls came to be part of her work. She organised them into a dedicated group of sisters ready to serve the poor in any form. They came to be known as the Missionaries of Charity.
Mother soon expanded her work and started working for the dying in the streets of Kolkata, people who were uncared for, the unloved and unwanted. On her request, the corporation gave her a dharmashala in the neighbourhood of the famous Kali temple, which became ‘Nirmal Hariday’ the home for the dying destitute.
As years passed, her helpers increased in numbers and she was able to expand and diversify her work. She was able to open a number of institutions in India and in many foreign countries. By now her sisters not only took care of the slum children but also looked after abandoned babies, unwanted old people and the leprosy patients.
Mother saw the image of God in the poor, the orphan, the sick, the at abandoned and so served them whole heartedly as if she was serving God himself. Her self-less service to the cause of the poor and the sick won her international recognition.
She was given several awards and degrees by different countries and organisations of the world. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1979 and Bharat Ratna in 1980, nation’s highest civilian award. But the glory and recognition never sullied her simple living and humility.
She continued to work for the poor until her death on Sept. 5, 1997 at the age of 87. The entire world mourned her death. She was given a state funeral which was attended by several world leaders.
Her death was an irreplaceable loss felt by the entire world. The Catholic Church breaking all traditions has already taken steps to declare her soon a ‘saint’- a person worthy of imitation.
Today not only the church admires her saintliness, noble virtues, depth of dedication and selfless service but the whole world considers her as a ‘symbol of the poor and an ever shining light’. In a world engulfed by gross materialism and ‘survival of the fittest’ she remains as a ever shining beacon, showing us the true path of living.