On 5 September 1997, Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun (now Saint) Mother Teresa (born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu) died in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India aged 87.
Mother Teresa was canonised (ie recognised by the church as a saint) on 4 September 2016 by current Pope Francis I at St Peter’s square in Vatican City in the presence of tens of thousands. However, the following day - 5 September - has become her Feast Day where Catholics celebrate her life, great deeds, miracles and passing to heaven.
Whilst born in Uskup under the Ottoman Empire (now Skopje, capital of Macedonia) on 26 August 1910, Teresa (then Agnes) moved to Ireland aged 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto there and learn English to become a missionary in India. A year later, she went to India (initially teaching at St Teresa’s School near her convent) – the country she was based in for the rest of her life.
In 1950, Teresa founded and built her order, the Missionaries of Charity, from the slums of (then) Calcutta. The order now manages homes for the poor and dying, soup kitchens, dispensaries and mobile clinics, family-counselling programmes, orphanages and schools in over 130 countries with 4,500 sisters. There exist more than a dozen Missionaries of Charity houses in Australia to help our poor, lonely and disadvantaged.
For her great humanitarian work, vision, persistence and sacrifice, she was awarded many honours including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. In a quirk of history, her death came six days after the tragic loss of her friend and supporter, Lady Diana, the Princess of Wales.
For her staunch and effective pro-life stance over many years, she attracted much disdain from pro-abortion (American) liberals. Her strong pro-life speech at the 2 March 1994 National Prayer Breakfast caused discomfort for then President Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Vice President Al Gore (video embedded below). Speaking in support of adoption, Mother Teresa said "I offer you, our sisters up here, anybody, who doesn't want a child, please give it to me. I want the child."
Teresa’s two recognised miracles to become a saint included:
- in 1998, the healing of an Indian woman’s (thought-terminal) abdominal tumour after a locket/medal containing Teresa's picture (and touched by her) was applied to the woman’s stomach, and
- in 2008, the healing of a Brazilian man’s (thought-terminal) brain tumours and bacterial infection after his wife prayed for Teresa’s intercession (help) upon advice by a priest friend.
Celebrate the life and Feast Day of Saint Mother Teresa (of Calcutta) by:
- if you are in/near Sydney, visiting the mother-house for the Oceanic Region of the Missionaries of Charity – the St Peters Catholic Parish and convent in Surry Hills
- attending a local observance or celebration this week
- downloading and watching a film on Saint Mother Teresa
- reading a book on her great life and legacy
- familiarising yourself with this account of her Australian visit (one of ten in her life) to northern NSW in the late 1960s, and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, observers of faith and those that have benefitted from, and/or still see great value in, the work, spirit, guidance and community service of the Church and its institutions.
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