By Kelly Wise Valdes
Pope Francis canonized the remarkable Mother Teresa, more than 19 years after her death, on Sunday, September 4, 2016 before huge crowds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
Mother Teresa was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910 in Albania. Agnes was one of four children. She received her First Communion at the age of five. Her father died while she was only eight years old, leaving her family in financial trouble. When Agnes turned 18, she felt that God was calling her to a higher service to Him.
She followed her calling and joined the Sisters of Loreto, based in Dublin, Ireland. After two months in Ireland learning how to speak English, Agnes boarded a boat and traveled for 37 days to arrive in India. It was there that she took her final vows and received the name Teresa. She spent 15 years teaching in a girl’s school in Calcutta.
Although she loved teaching, she felt God was calling her into the streets of Calcutta and care for the poor.
Jesus revealed to her His pain at the neglect of the poor. Teresa established a religious community, Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to the service of the poorest of the poor.
She went for the first time to the slums. She visited families, washed the sores of children, cared for the elderly lying sick on the road and nursed the hungry and dying. She started each day with communion then went out, rosary in her hand, to find and serve Him amongst “the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for.” Soon she was joined, one by one, by her former students.
Teresa’s efforts started out small. She got permission to live with the poor and to dress like them. She changed traditional nun’s habit to a sari worn by Indian women. She quickly received training in basic medical care and went into the homes of the poor to help them.
She was established as the head of a new religious order: the Missionaries of Charity and was known from that point on as Mother Teresa.
Soon, the world began recognize Mother Teresa’s work. She received numerous awards including Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. The media began to follow her activities and she received the recognition “for the glory of God and in the name of the poor.”
In spite of severe health problems towards the end of her life, Mother Teresa continued to help the poor. By 1997, Mother Teresa’s Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members and were established in 610 foundations in 123 countries of the world.
On September 5, 1997, Mother Teresa passed away at the age of 87.
Pope John Paul II permitted the opening of her Cause of Canonization. In 2002, he approved the decrees of her heroic virtues and miracles. Mother Teresa was beatified by the Pope in 2003.
On December 17, 2015 Pope Francis announced a second miracle had been attributed to the intercession of Mother Teresa. The miracle involved a Brazilian man who suffered from brain tumors who was miraculously cured. This second miracle mobilized the way for Mother Teresa’s canonization as a Saint on Sunday, September 4, 2016 by Pope Francis.