Mother Teresa was a nun in the Roman Catholic church who garnered international attention and won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work with orphans and the poor around the world. During her lifetime, she was responsible for touching the lives of thousands of destitute individuals, often working in tough conditions in Third World countries, especially India. Soon after her death on 5 September 1997, Pope John Paul II waived the five-year waiting period for the process of beatification, making it possible for her to begin the path to sainthood immediately.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born 26 August 1910. Of Albanian descent, Mother Teresa had her humble beginnings in Skopje, Macedonia. She appeared to receive her calling to ministry around the age of 12 and wanted to work in missions, spreading the love of Jesus Christ around the world. She eventually left Macedonia and headed for India at the age of 18, after some training in Dublin, Ireland. She took her vows as a nun on 24 May 1931.
It was in India that Mother Teresa found her life’s work, spending most of her adult life in the city of Calcutta. Although Mother Teresa would often travel to other countries to bring attention to various issues, India was her home base. She began her career as a teacher at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta, but soon found that her mission was beyond the walls of the school building. With hardly any money but a strong desire to help, she started an open-air school for India’s poorest children.
One of Mother Teresa’s most lasting impacts is the result of her decision to start her own order known as “The Missionaries of Charity.” This order has grown since the 1950s, and has individuals spread throughout the world with the mission of caring for those that no one else can or will care for. That order has since spawned other movements, many of which work very closely with Mother Teresa’s original organization to help reach even more individuals.
The awards bestowed on Mother Teresa are numerous. In 1971, she was awarded the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize. That was followed in 1979 by the Norwegian Committee awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize, one of the most recognized awards in the world. In awarding the prize, the committee specifically mentioned her ability to work with others of various religious denominations.
In the later years of her life, she received an artificial pacemaker and suffered from pneumonia and malaria prior to her death. Mother Teresa was beatified 19 October 2003, which is the first step in becoming an officially recognized saint by the Roman Catholic Church. The church has provided no timeline on completing the process.