Who was Mother Theresa



Who Was Mother Teresa?


Mother Teresa was always her own person,
startlingly independent, obedient, yet
challenging some preconceived notions and
expectations. Her own life story includes
many illustrations of her willingness to listen to
and follow her own conscience, even when it
seemed to contradict what was expected.

This strong and independent Slavic woman
was born Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu in
Skopje, Yugoslavia, on August 27, 1910.
Five children were born to Nikola and
Dronda Bojaxhiu, yet only three survived.
Gonxha was the youngest, with an older
sister, Aga, and brother, Lazar. This brother
describes the family\'s early years as
"well-off," not the life of peasants reported
inaccurately by some. "We lacked for
nothing." In fact, the family lived in one of the
two houses they owned.

Nikola was a contractor, working with a
partner in a successful construction business.
He was also heavily involved in the politics of
the day. Lazar tells of his father\'s rather
sudden and shocking death, which may have
been due to poisoning because of his political
involvement. With this event, life changed
overnight as their mother assumed total
responsibility for the family, Aga, only 14,
Lazar, 9, and Gonxha, 7.

Though so much of her young life was
centered in the Church, Mother Teresa later
revealed that until she reached 18, she had
never thought of being a nun. During her early
years, however, she was fascinated with
stories of missionary life and service. She
could locate any number of missions on the
map, and tell others of the service being given
in each place.

Called to Religious Life

At 18, Gonxha decided to follow the path
that seems to have been unconsciously
unfolding throughout her life. She chose the
Loreto Sisters of Dublin, missionaries and
educators founded in the 17th century to
educate young girls.

In 1928, the future Mother Teresa began her
religious life in Ireland, far from her family and
the life she\'d known, never seeing her mother
again in this life, speaking a language few
understood. During this period a sister novice
remembered her as "very small, quiet and
shy," and another member of the congregation
described her as "ordinary." Mother Teresa
herself, even with the later decision to begin
her own community of religious, continued to
value her beginnings with the Loreto sisters
and to maintain close ties. Unwavering
commitment and self-discipline, always a part
of her life and reinforced in her association
with the Loreto sisters, seemed to stay with
her throughout her life.

One year later, in 1929, Gonxha was sent to
Darjeeling to the novitiate of the Sisters of
Loreto. In 1931, she made her first vows
there, choosing the name of Teresa, honoring
both saints of the same name, Teresa of Avila
and Therese of Lisieux. In keeping with the
usual procedures of the congregation and her
deepest desires, it was time for the new Sister
Teresa to begin her years of service to God\'s
people. She was sent to St. Mary\'s, a high
school for girls in a district of Calcutta.

Here she began a career teaching history and
geography, which she reportedly did with
dedication and enjoyment for the next 15
years. It was in the protected environment of
this school for the daughters of the wealthy
that Teresa\'s new "vocation" developed and
grew. This was the clear message, the
invitation to her "second calling," that Teresa
heard on that fateful day in 1946 when she
traveled to Darjeeling for retreat.

The Streets of Calcutta

During the next two years, Teresa pursued
every avenue to follow what she "never
doubted" was the direction God was pointing
her. She was "to give up even Loreto where I
was very happy and to go out in the streets. I
heard the call to give up all and follow Christ
into the slums to serve him among the poorest
of the poor."

Technicalities and practicalities abounded.
She had to be released formally, not from her
perpetual vows, but from living within the
convents of the Sisters of Loreto. She had to
confront the Church\'s resistance to forming
new religious communities, and receive
permission from the Archbishop of Calcutta
to serve the poor openly on the streets. She
had to figure out how to live and work