Mother Teresa, the
'Saint of the Gutters', has
come to epitomise selflessness in her dedication to the destitute, the suffering
and the dying. Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Serbia in 1910 to Albanian parents,
she joined the Irish Order of Loreto nuns in 1929 and was sent to Darjeeling as
a teacher. Moving to a school in Kolkata in 1937 she was horrified at the
numbers of poor people left to die on the streets of the city because there was
nowhere else for them to go. She began to feel that behind the secure walls of
the nunnery she was too far removed from the people she wanted to help.
realized that I had the call to take care of the sick and the dying, the
hungry, the naked, the homeless - to be God's Love in
the poorest of the poor. That was the beginning of the Missionaries of
The Missionaries of Charity was Mother Teresa's new order,
formed in 1950. Among their vows is the promise 'to give wholehearted and free
service to the poorest of the poor'. This vow was put into action with the
setting up of several homes including Nirmal Hriday (the home for the dying),
Shanti Nagar (for lepers) and Nirmala Shishu Bhavan (the children's home). There
are now homes in many other places, staffed not only by nuns but also by
volunteers of co-workers.
For all her saintliness, Mother
Teresa is not without her critics. Germaine Greer, for example, has
accused her of being a religious imperialist, although anyone who has spent some
time with the nuns and seen them at work could hardly call them Bible-bashing
evangelists. Mother Teresa herself has said that hers is contemplative work. Her
inspiration is spiritual and Christian but it is put into practice mainly by
ministering to physical needs. In 1979 her work achieved world recognition when
she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Old age finally slowed Mother Teresa down, and with three
major operations in the last five years, worldwide attention kept track of
her heartbeat almost as keenly as her pacemaker did. in early 1997, Mother
Teresa resigned her position at the Missionaries due to bad health, and was
replaced by Sister Nirmala.
old Nobel laureate died of severe cardiac arrest at the Missionaries of
Charity headquarters on September 5, 1997 at 21.30 hours. With the death of
"Saint of Gutters", the light has gone out of the lives of the poor
and the downtrodden.
Mother herself had no personal property or savings. But her real wealth was
the millions of destitute orphaned and abandoned sufferers around the world.