Distinguished Women of Past and Present


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Mother Teresa of Calcutta

From: Albania, India
Fields: Activism and Social Service, Religion
Key Words/Phrases: nun, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, and Nobel laureate
Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910- ), Albanian-born Roman Catholic nun, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, and Nobel laureate. Originally named Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, she entered the Order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto in Ireland at the age of 18. She trained in Dublin and Darjeeling, India, before taking her religious vows in 1937. While serving as principal of a Roman Catholic high school in Calcutta, she was moved by the presence of the sick and dying on the city's streets. In 1948 she was granted permission to leave her post at the convent and begin a ministry among the sick. In 1950 Mother Teresa and her associates were approved within the archdiocese of Calcutta as the Missionaries of Charity. Later the order was recognized as a pontifical congregation under the jurisdiction of Rome. Members of the congregation take four vows on acceptance by the religious community. Required in addition to the three basic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience is a fourth vow pledging service to the poor, whom Mother Teresa described as the embodiment of Christ. In 1952 Mother Teresa opened the Nirmal Hriday ("Pure Heart") Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta. Subsequently she extended her work onto five continents. In recognition of her efforts she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She was forced to scale down her activities in 1990 because of declining health.

"Mother Teresa of Calcutta" Microsoft(R) Encarta.
Copyright(c) 1995 Microsoft Corporation.


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