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An icon of charity and compassion, Mother Teresa dedicated her life to helping the most vulnerable and needy members of society.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa, named Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, was born in 1910 in Macedonia to Albanian parents. From a young age, she was set on dedicating her life to religious service. Following her father's death, she grew closer to her mother, who set a strong example in showing compassion and charity to others. When she was 18, she joined a convent in Ireland, where she took the name Teresa in honour of St Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.

After her novitiate period – a period of time spent preparing for life as a nun – Teresa travelled to Calcutta, India, where she would teach children from very poor families. She learned Bengali and Hindu and became principal of the school run by her convent. Following custom, she took the title ‘Mother’ after completing her final vows.

Mother Teresa devoted her life to serving her community and trying to alleviate some of the poverty that surrounded her. She cared for members of society who had been marginalized and excluded, including opening a hospice for people suffering from leprosy and opening shelters for homeless children. She established the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 with the aim of caring for those most in need. Her congregation started with 13 members; by the time of her death in 1997, it had grown to over 4000 sisters.

Her work caught the public imagination and using charitable donations from her supporters around the world, Mother Teresa was able to open orphanages and hospices throughout India and beyond. Mother Teresa’s life was not without controversy, and she faced criticism for supporting the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on contraceptives and abortion. Some argued that this position was incompatible with reducing poverty. Others criticized the quality of care and treatment in her homes.

Mother Teresa was recognized globally for her tireless work for the most vulnerable members of society, and Pope Paul honored her with a Decree of Praise in 1965. In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Mother Teresa was beatified (the first step towards becoming a saint in the Roman Catholic Church) after her death in 1997 at the age of 87. She was canonized as a saint by Pope Francis in 2015 and remains one of the most revered public figures of modern times.

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Mother Teresa Accomplishments

  • Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for bringing help to suffering humanity.
  • Canonized as a saint in 2015.
  • Established the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 which continues to care for vulnerable people in Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America, Europe and Australia.

Mother Teresa Quotes

“Spread love wherever you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.”

Learn more about people who have influenced history in our Picture Encyclopedia!
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