She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia (then Yugoslavia) to parents Nikola and Dranafile Bojaxhiu. At the age of 18, Agnes found her true calling and became Sister Mary Teresa – a name you perhaps have heard, but which still may have little special meaning to you.
But in 1937, Agnes had yet another name change, and it’s unlikely that you haven’t heard this name: Mother Teresa.
Reams have been written about this exceptional humanitarian, and there’s little that we can add. But on our recent trip to Skopje we visited the small, unpretentious Memorial House of Mother Teresa, and its many telling documents and photos helped us gain some insight into her early life, her achievements, and the life she lead as a Catholic nun.
In 1946, while teaching at St. Mary’s school in Calcutta Mother Teresa experienced another call from God:
“I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.”
I’ve always found hand-written manuscripts intriguing because they have a personal quality that’s missing from print, and this “Final Vow Paper of Mother Teresa” was especially touching. It was written in 1953 on the day that Mother Teresa publicly pronounced her vows as a Missionary of Charity.
These two photos show some of the respect and the global reach that Mother Teresa had.
While obedient, she was also known to be surprisingly independent. In 1979 she received the Noble Prize for her humanitarian work, and in true fashion, she refused the traditional Nobel honor banquet and requested that the $192,000 award be allocated to help the poor in India. It’s also said that Pope Paul VI came to meet her in 1965 but she said that she was too busy with her work among the poor to meet with him.
Mother Teresa’s tireless devotion to helping the the poor, the unwanted, and the disenfranchised made her a global icon of selfless sacrifice and one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century. Prior to our trip to Macedonia, I had no idea that Mother Teresa had been born there, and in fact, knew very little about her. The Memorial House of Mother Teresa was another of Skopje’s delightful surprises which helped fill in the blanks on an astoundingly exceptional woman.
If you’d like to know more about Mother Teresa and her life americancatholic.org is a good starting point.
James & Terri