Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Foundress of the Congregation "Missionaries of Charity"


Teresa of Calcutta, born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, was born on 26 August 1910 in Skopje into a wealthy family of Albanian parents, of the Catholic religion.

All’età di otto anni perse il padre e la sua famiglia soffrì di gravi difficoltà finanziarie.

From the age of fourteen years he participated in charity groups organized by his parish and in 1928, at the age of eighteen, he decided to take his vows by entering the Sisters of Charity as an aspirant.


Sent to Ireland in 1929 to carry out the first part of her novitiate, in 1931, after taking her vows and taking the name of Maria Theresa, inspired by Saint Therese of Lisieux, she left for India to complete her studies.


He became a teacher at the Catholic boarding school of St. Mary's High School in Entally, a suburb of Calcutta, attended mainly by the daughters of English settlers.

During the years she spent at St. Mary's, she stood out for her innate organizational skills, so much so that in 1944 she was appointed director.

The encounter with the dramatic poverty of the Calcutta suburbs pushes the young Teresa to a deep inner reflection: as she wrote in her notes, she had“a call within a call”.

In 1948 she received authorization from the Vatican to go and live alone on the outskirts of the metropolis, on condition that she continued her religious life.

Missionaries of charity

In 1950, he founded the congregation of the "Missionaries of charity” (in LatinCongregatio Sororum Missionarium Caritatis, in EnglishMissionaries of Charity or Sisters of Mother Teresa), whose mission was to take care of"poorer than the poor" and "of all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for by society, all those people who have become a burden to society and who have been shunned by everyone".

The first adherents were twelve girls, including some of her former students at St. Mary's. She settled on a plain white sari with blue stripes as her uniform, which, it seems, was chosen by Mother Teresa because it was the cheapest of those on sale in a small shop.

He moved into a small building which he called"Kalighat Home for the Dying", given to him by the Archdiocese of Calcutta.

La vicinanza ad un tempio indù, provoca la dura reazione di questi ultimi che accusano Madre Teresa di proselitismo e cercano con massicce dimostrazioni di allontanarla.

La polizia, chiamata dalla missionaria, forse intimorita dalle violente proteste, decide arbitrariamente di arrestare Madre Teresa. Il commissario, entrato nell’ospedale, dopo aver visto le cure che essa amorevolmente dava ad un bambino mutilato, decise di lasciar perdere.

Over time, however, the relationship between Mother Teresa and the Indians strengthened and even if the misunderstandings remained, a peaceful coexistence was reached.

Shortly after he opened another hospice, the«Nirmal Hriday (i.e. Pure Heart)», then again a leper house called«Shanti Nagar (i.e. City of Peace)»and finally an orphanage.

The Order soon began to attract bothrecruits” and charitable donations from Western citizens, and by the 1960s he had opened hospices, orphanages and leper houses all over India.

British Broadcasting Corporation – BBC

Mother Teresa's international fame grew enormously after a successful 1969 BBC report titled«Qualcosa di bello per Dio» e realizzato dal noto giornalista Malcolm Muggeridge.

The service documented the nuns' work among the poor of Calcutta but during filming at theHome for the Dying, a causa delle scarse condizioni di luce, si ritenne che la pellicola si potesse essere rovinata; tuttavia lo spezzone, quando fu inserito nel montaggio, apparve ben illuminato.

The technicians claimed that it was thanks to the new type of film used, but Muggeridge was convinced it was a miracle: he thought that the divine light of Mother Teresa had illuminated the video, and he converted to Catholicism.

The documentary, also thanks to the alleged miracle, had an extraordinary success that brought the figure of Mother Teresa to the fore in the news.

Paul VI

In February 1965, Blessed Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini, 1963-1978) granted the Missionaries of Charity the title of "congregation of pontifical right” and the possibility of expanding outside India as well.

In 1967 a house was opened in Venezuela, followed by offices in Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States throughout the seventies and eighties. The Order expanded with the birth of a contemplative branch and two lay organizations.

In 1979, he finally obtained the most prestigious recognition: the Nobel Peace Prize.

He refused the conventional ceremonial banquet for the victors, and requested that the $6,000 in funds go to the poor of Calcutta, who could be fed for an entire year: "earthly rewards are only important when used to help the needy of the world".

Saint John Paul II

In 1981 the movement “Corpus Christi” aperto ai sacerdoti secolari. Nel corso degli anni ottanta nasce l’amicizia fra San Giovanni Paolo II (Karol Józef Wojtyła, 1978-2005) e Madre Teresa i quali si ricambiano visite reciproche.

Grazie all’appoggio del Papa, Madre Teresa riuscì ad aprire ben tre case a Roma, fra cui una mensa nella Città del Vaticano dedicata a Santa Marta, patrona dell’ospitalità.

In the 1990s, the Missionaries of Charity exceeded 4,000 units with fifty houses spread across all continents.

Meanwhile, however, her conditions worsened: in 1989, following a heart attack, she was fitted with a pacemaker; in 1991 she fell ill with pneumonia; in 1992 she had new heart problems.

She resigned as superior of the Order but following a ballot she was practically re-elected unanimously, with only a few abstentions. She accepted the result and remained at the head of the congregation.

Nell’aprile del 1996 Madre Teresa cadde e si ruppe la clavicola. Il 13 marzo 1997 lasciò definitivamente la guida delle Missionarie della Carità.

In the same month, he met St. John Paul II for the last time, before returning to Calcutta where he died on 5 September, at 9.30 pm, at the age of eighty-seven.

Il suo lavoro, svolto con immenso amore, tra le vittime della povertà di Calcutta, le sue opere e i suoi libri di spiritualità cristiana e di preghiere, alcuni dei quali furono scritti insieme al suo amico Frère Roger, l’hanno resa una delle persone più famose al mondo.

A soli due anni dalla sua morte, San Giovanni Paolo II fece aprire, per la prima volta nella storia della Chiesa, con una deroga speciale, il processo di beatificazione che si concluse nell’estate del 2003 e fu quindi beatificata il 19 ottobre con il nome di Beata Teresa di Calcutta.

The archdiocese of Calcutta already opened the process for the canonization in 2005.

His message is always timely: “You can find Kolkata all over the world– she said – ,if you have eyes to see. Everywhere there are the unloved, the unwanted, the uncared for, the rejected, the forgotten".

I suoi figli spirituali continuano in tutto il mondo a servire “the poorest of the poor” in orfanotrofi, lebbrosari, case di accoglienza per anziani, ragazze madri, moribondi.

There are 5,000 in all, including the two lesser-known men's branches, distributed in about 600 houses around the world; not counting the many thousands of volunteers and consecrated lay people who carry on his works. “When I'm dead– she said –I can help you more…".

Per approfondimenti:

>>> Beatification

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was proclaimed a Saint on Sunday 4 September 2016:"Beatam Teresiam de Calcutta Sanctam esse decernimus et definimus ac Sanctorum Catalog adscribimus…".

Pope francesco presided over the rite of canonization in a packed St. Peter's Square, in front of about 120,000 people who came from all over the world, especially from Albania, the motherland of the young Agnes, and from India, the land of life and burial, 19 years ago, of Saint Mother Teresa.

70 cardinals, 400 bishops and over 1,700 priests concelebrated with Francis.

Santa Teresa di Calcutta
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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