Did you Ever Wonder...

Which famous Catholic religious leader is known as one of the great humanitarians of the 20th century?

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Saint Teresa of Calcutta (26 August 1910 - 5 September 1997) was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia and her parents of Albanian descent were devout Catholics. It was at the age of twelve that she first felt a calling to religious life. Six years later, in 1928, she left home for Ireland and joined the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto. There she received the name Sister Mary Teresa after St. Thérèse of Lisieux (2 January 1873 - 30 September 1897). She arrived in Calcutta, India, in January 1929 and after making her First Profession of Vows in 1931, she was assigned to the Loreto Entally community in Calcutta and taught at St. Mary's High School for girls. In 1937, as was the custom for Loreto nuns, she took on the title of "Mother" upon making her final vows and thus became known as Mother Teresa. She continued teaching at St. Mary's until 1948 and spent the last four years as the school's principal. In September 1946, Mother Teresa experienced a second calling when she said Christ spoke to her and told her to abandon teaching to work in the slums of Calcutta. Sixteen months later, in January 1948, she received official permission to leave her convent to pursue her new calling. On 17 August 1948, she dressed for the first time in her trademark white, blue-bordered sari and dedicated herself to the service of the poorest of the poor. After six months of basic medical training in Patna, she returned to Calcutta and entered the slums for the first time. In 1950, she established the new congregation of Missionaries of Charity in the Archdiocese of Calcutta. Mother Teresa founded numerous other missionaries and movements throughout the 1970s and 1980s that supported her desire to share her spirit of prayer, simplicity and sacrifice.

By 2012, Mother Teresa's Sisters numbered over 4,500 members and were established in 610 foundations in 133 countries across the world. She received much recognition and awards during her lifetime, including the Indian Padmashri Award in 1962, the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and many others "for the glory of God and in the name of the poor". After several years of deteriorating health, she died in Calcutta in 1997 and was given the honour of a state funeral by the Government of India. Her body rests within the Mother House of her congregation and her tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage and prayer. Less than two years after her death, in view of Mother Teresa's widespread reputation of holiness and the favours being reported, Pope John Paul II permitted the opening of her Cause of Canonization and she was beatified in October 2003. She was declared a saint by Pope Francis on 4 September 2016 in Rome and a week later, on 11 September, a celebration took place in Skopje, Macedonia, where she is particularly popular and admired within the Balkans.

Shown in the photograph is a statue erected in honour of Saint Teresa of Calcutta located within the garden of St. Mary's Basilica in Phoenix, Arizona. There are also many Roman Catholic schools that have been named in her honour, including St. Teresa School in the Village of Russell, Ontario. Opened in September 2002, this elementary school serves the eastern region of Ontario and draws students from both rural and urban settings.

On this day, 26 August 2022, we commemorate the 112th anniversary of the birth of Saint Teresa of Calcutta and mark nearly six years since the declaration of her sainthood by the Roman Catholic faith.

André M. Levesque

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