Amazing Possibilities!

She Captured the Imagination of the Whole World

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Bojaxhiu in Serbia on August 26, 1910. Agnes grew up in Albania, surrounded by wealth and prosperity. Despite their wealth, her parents were models of virtue. They loved each other deeply, and that love overflowed to Agnes and her sister. At the age of eighteen, Agnes left home to join an Irish order of nuns. Later that year, in December 1928, she set sail for India to begin her work as a novice for the Loreto Order. Now Sister Teresa, she spent most of the next twenty years teaching. In 1937, she made her permanent vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and as was customary adopted the title of Mother.

By 1943, India was torn by war and famine. Mahatma Gandhi’s great success in freeing India from British rule had become tainted by civil war between Muslims and Hindus living in India. More people than ever descended upon Calcutta. It finally became necessary for the Loreto Convent to move the children and the school outside the city. At this time, many nuns and whole orders decided to leave India and close their schools, but Mother Teresa stayed and worked tirelessly. As others left, she taught more and more classes, eventually teaching two subjects to eight grades.

She was happy in her work and well liked. By the mid-1940s, her mere presence already had a power that had been born through hours of prayer and reflection. Soon Mother Teresa was appointed headmistress, and she wrote to her mother, “This is a new life. Our center here is very fine. I am a teacher, and I love the work. I am also head of the whole school, and every- body wishes me well.” Her mother’s reply was a stern reminder of her original intentions for going to India: “Dear child, do not forget that you went to India for the sake of the poor.”

Kipling described Calcutta as “the city of a dreadful night.” Mother Teresa was in the capital of poverty, a poverty that most people never even witness firsthand, let alone personally experience. Have you been there? Have you seen it on television? Can you picture it?

This was the world that surrounded the school and this was the world that was crying out for help.

In 1946, Mother Teresa became very ill herself and was ordered by doc- tors to have bed rest for three hours every afternoon. It was very hard for her to rest and not do her work, but this period of enforced rest culminated in the directive to go away on retreat for a month. The intention was that in the interests of her health she should undergo a period of spiritual renewal and a physical break from the work.