Saint Teresa of Calcutta is recognized as one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century. Her biblical calling led her to serve in the most impoverished parts of India, where she and her missionaries faced epidemic levels of terminally ill adults and children. Saint Teresa won numerous awards for her humanitarian efforts, including the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Her legacy lives on through 4,000 Missionary of Charity Sisters, in 610 centers in 123 countries. She served humanity as a nun, a teacher and a spiritual leader, but the world remembers her simply as Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa's given name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She was born on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia. When Agnes was nine, her father passed away unexpectedly and her mother became heavily involved in the Catholic Church. Agnes sang in the church choir, helped her mother organize church events, and served with her mother handing out food and supplies to the poor. Agnes read articles about nuns in Ireland that hosted a monastery in India, and she felt a strong calling to join their mission. At age 17, Agnes applied to the Loreto order of nuns and became Sister Teresa, a name she selected to honor St. Teresa of Lisieux.
Sister Teresa completed the two-year process of joining the convent in Calcutta, India. She took her first vows as a Loreto nun on May 24, 1931, and her title elevated to Mother Teresa. From 1931 to 1948, Mother Teresa taught geography and catechism at St. Mary's High School in Calcutta. Typically the nuns were confined to the convent grounds, but in September of 1946, Mother Teresa experienced a ‘calling within a calling’ to serve the impoverished citizens by living among them. After two years of heavy petitioning, Mother Teresa was approved to extend the mission into the nearby slums of Calcutta. At the end of a year-long trial period, she petitioned to form her own order of nuns to continue the outreach efforts. Pope Pius XII granted the request, and Mother Teresa established the Missionaries of Charity on October 7, 1950.
The widespread poverty in India is largely due to their hierarchical caste system, and the population suffered from disproportional levels of homelessness and disease. The extreme poverty also led to overcrowding at orphanages as parents passed away or could no longer afford to care for their children. Mother Teresa had a strong affinity towards caring for these children. Since the public hospitals were overcrowded, many residents literally passed away in the streets. Mother Teresa had the vision to provide a nurturing environment to care for the dying population, and established Nirmal Hriday ("Place of the Immaculate Heart"), on August 22, 1952. She later created a colony outside of city borders to care for residents infected with leprosy.
Mother Teresa passed away in September of 1997, and was laid to rest at the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. In 1999, Pope John Paul II approved the beatification of Mother Teresa, the Vatican’s formal recognition of their intent to canonize Mother Teresa as a Saint. During this process, the Vatican bestowed the title of Blessed Teresa. Among many strict requirements, this Catholic ritual requires two miracles attributed to the candidate posthumously. Pope John Paul II acknowledged first miracle in 2002 following an account of a 30-year old Calcutta resident curing her own stomach tumor after praying to Blessed Teresa. Pope Francis attributed the second miracle in March of 2016 following the unexplained recovery of a Brazilian man with multiple tumors in his brain after his friends and family prayed to Blessed Teresa.
Pope Francis publicly delivered the formula for the canonization of Blessed Teresa to thousands of her faithful followers during a ceremony held at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City on September 4th, 2016. Pope Francis praised Saint Teresa as a model of holiness and compassion, stating ”mercy was the salt which gave flavor to her work, it was the light which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering." This historically significant event is likely only experienced once in a lifetime.
Global Bronze celebrates the life and mission of Saint Teresa through our exclusive life size statues depicting her humanitarian efforts both in Calcutta and around the world. The first statue presents Saint Teresa bowing her head in prayer and solemn reflection. Saint Teresa is clothed in her iconic white habit and sari, the design modified for exclusive use by the Missionary of Charity sisters. In the second design, Saint Teresa is shown carrying a child to depict the thousands of children and orphans she assisted during her lifetime. It’s significant that the child is unclothed because Saint Teresa found her passion serving among the poorest populations. Among many poignant quotes, Saint Teresa famously stated, "Not all of us can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great love."