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Mother Teresa

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National Catholic Reporter

Mother Teresa is the founder of a group of Catholic nuns called the Missionaries of Charity.   Based in India, Mother Teresa’s order offers homes for people who are dying. It also runs meal centers, medical dispensaries, mobile clinics, children’s and family counseling programs, as well as orphanages and schools throughout India.  The order has spread to other countries in the world including the United States and Vatican City.  With her focus in India on those individuals who had been forgotten and literally left in the streets to die, Mother became a national hero in India.  Although she was born in Macedonia, India became her home.  As her work became more known, she became a world personality.  She was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for her charity work in 1979.  

Mary Teresa was born in 1910.  By the age of 12, she knew she wanted to become a missionary.  She entered the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland  to begin her training for missionary work in India at 18.  The Sisters of Loreto taught in English, so Mother Teresa had to learn English first.  She arrived in India in 1929 and taught school until 1946 when she felt compelled to do something about the poor in Calcutta.  She was given permission to set up a new order in the Calcutta diocese working with the dying poor.    Her new community set up their first hospice in 1952, called  Kalighat Home for the Dying, which was a former temple.  This hospice is still open today.  She adopted a sari with a blue sash on it for the Virgin Mary as the uniform for the new order, considering wearing the sari would make Indians more comfortable with her sisters.  After starting a facility for the dying, Mother set up soup kitchens and medical facilities.  All care that was given was free.  Lastly, she opened children’s homes for those with no families or no one to care for them. By the time of her death in 1979, her organization had grown to over 4,000 nuns, 300 brothers and over 500 facilities in over 100 countries.

Mother Teresa was not free from criticism about her methods.  Some leaders in Calcutta felt she was giving the world an improper picture of Calcutta.  Others questioned how she used the money received for her order.  One of her worst critics was Christopher Hitchens, who wrote an essay on the problems with her sisterhood.  Mother became known the world over due to a documentary by Malcolm Muggeridge  on her work with the poor in 1979.  She often met with world leaders and received support for her work from Princess Diana, Pope John Paul II and even the dictator of Haiti at the time.

Mother was plagued by heart disease at the end of her life, and resigned her position as leader of the Missionaries of Charity in March 1997.  She died on the 5th of September 1997 and was buried in the former dining room of the mother house of her order.  India mourned her, and gave Mother Teresa a state funeral, even though she was neither Hindu or Moslem, the predominant religions in India.  Mother was a naturalized citizen of India, however.  She continues to be remembered joyfully my many Indians, ranking No. 5 in 2012 on a list of the most influential Indians in history.  

The Catholic Church put her on a fast track to sainthood. This  means that church believes it can prove Mother Teresa is in heaven.  Since September 4, 2016, she has been a saint of the Catholic Church.

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