MOTHER TERESA LIFE & LIVING


Mother Teresa Life & Living:


         Nikola Bojaxhiu, a prosperous business man, and a multi-linguist who had widely traveled, was active in politics and the local church in Skopje, Macedonia. He wedded Dranafile Bernai, and soon became the father of three children. Aga, a daughter, Laza, a son, and Agnes Gonxha, a daughter. Agnes was born on 26 August, 1910. Gonxha in Albanian means flower bud.

        Nikola passed on to his children a sense of ethnic identity and nationalist pride; however, it was Drana who nurtured the children's spiritual growth.

       Agnes Gonxha often accompanied her mother, helping her as she made her way from family to family, offering both spiritual and material comfort. Dranas Christian charity offered a powerful example, helping to mould Agnes Gonxhas spiritual life and to shape her destiny.

      In 1919, Agnes Gonxhas father was dead at the age of 45. Nikola Bojaxhius death devastated his wife; Drana fell into deep, prolonged, and often incapacitating grief. Dranas infuence on her children was extraordinary, especially after their fathers death. So powerful was Dranas presence that Agnes Gonxha recalled, Home is where the mother is.

      Besides her mother, the Sacred Heart church exercised the most influence on young Gonxha. I was only twelve years old... when I felt the desire to become a nun, Mother Teresa recalled. Father Franjo Jambrekovic, a young Jesuit priest passed on to the members of Sacred Heart Parish the news of the missionary efforts that the Jesuits had undertaken.

The missionaries wrote impassioned letters describing the horrible conditions under which the poor and the in



lived in India. The zeal with which Father Jambrekovic spoke of the Jesuit missions in India,sparked a renewed sense of devotion in Agnes Gonxha. The more she heard about the missions in India, the more she was drawn to the possibility of working there. Agnes Gonxha had grown into an attractive young woman, a good student, neat and clean in appearance, self-disciplined, and well organized, she had already earned a reputation in the community for her friendliness and willingness to help anyone. But Gonxha was struggling with her decision to become a nun.

      Trying to decide the mission of her life, Gonxha turned to Father Jambrekovic for advice. In later years, Mother Teresa acknowledged that there was no doubt in her mind about her decision, stating simply that God had made the choice for her. One day, after returning home from a visit to the shrine of the Madonna, Agnes Gonxha informed her mother that she had made up her mind to become a nun. Because of her interest in missionary work, she intended to apply to the order of the Loreto Sisters, an Irish branch of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary who worked with the Jesuits in Bengal.

      Drana gave her daughter her blessing, but also warned her that in choosing to become a nun, she must turn her life over to God without doubt, without fear, without hesitation, and without remorse. The time came for Gonxha to leave Skopje. She was to travel to Paris, where the Mother Superior of the Loreto Sisters was to interview her to determine whether Agnes Gonxha was acceptable to the order. On August 15, 1928, guests came to the Agnes Bojaxhiu home to wish her farewell and her friends gathered to wish the Bojaxhiu woman a



            

safe journey. Finally, on October 8, Agnes Gonxha, accompanied by another young woman, Betika Kanjc, who also hoped to join the Loreto Sisters, boarded the train to Paris. Waving goodbye, Agnes Gonxha bid farewell to her mother, whom she never saw again.

       As the train pulled away from the Zagreb station on its way to Paris, Gonxha must have thought about the consequences of her decision. Not only was she leaving her family and friends, she was also leaving the only home she had ever known. If the Loreto Sisters accepted her application, it would mean lifetime separation from her family and her country. She could probably never even visit her homeland again. The chances of her family visiting her were equally remote; travel was expensive and there would be little opportunity for her mother, brother, or sister to come to India. Whether she felt sad and lonely as the train rolled on toward Paris, Gonxha knew that she had made the right choice. Her life belonged to God.



Mother Teresa -The Loreto Sisters :


       Beginning in 1834, the Jesuits began arriving in Bengal near Calcutta with a mission to serve the poor. They established St. Xaviers School in which they taught Catholics, Hindus, and Muslims alike. It soon became apparent, though, that the community needed a separate school for the daughters of Irish Catholic military families.

       When approached about the possibility of sending nuns to India to staff the girls school, Mother Teresa gently but refused. There were too many children in Ireland in need of assistance. There was also a shortage of nuns. Her German visitor countered that in refusing to send members of her order to India. The case went before the entire community; they would decide whether to accept the mission to India.

      In the end, seven sisters decided to go to India, marking the beginning of Loreto missionary work there. On August 23, 1841, the seven, accompanied by two priests and six postulants, or novice nuns, set sail. Almost four months later, they disembarked in Calcutta. disembarked in Calcutta. The little band took possession of the house at 5 Middleton Row, where they were to live and teach. The sisters prepared the once lavishly furnished house into simpler living quarters and classrooms. The 67-foot dining room became the school hall.

      The initial reports that Mother Teresa received from India were enthusiastic. Streams of volunteers now offered to go to India to aid the Loreto Sisters of Calcutta.In spite of a number of nuns dying of cholera,






the flow of volunteers did not stop. It was this pioneering and courageous group of teachers that Gonxha Bojaxhiu soon hoped to join.

      On December 1, 1928, the two women Gonxha and Betika set sail for India. Upon their arrival there, the two would begin their novitiate, that is the period of study and prayer which every nun takes before her vows. The sea voyage proved long and arduous, winding its way Suez Canal, then the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal. On January 6, 1929, the ship arrived at Calcutta. But at this point, Gonxha had little chance to become acquainted with her surroundings. After just a few days, on January 16, she was sent to the Loreto Novitiate located in Darjeeling, a fashionable hill resort about 400 miles north of Calcutta.



Life In The Loreto Convent :


       Life at the Loreto Convent for Gonxha Bojaxhiu was disciplined and rigorous. Entering a Catholic convent during the early twentieth century was like being plunged into another world, one that was isolated and relatively contained. For the next two years, dressed in the black habit and veil of the order, Gonxha kept up with her English studies as well as learning the Bengali language. Under the watchful eye of the novice mistress, who oversaw the novitiates' training, the young woman went weekly to confession. Dinnertime was spent listening to one of the sisters reading about the lives of the saints, or from the rules of Loreto.


Bengali Teresa :


       Every day from 9 to 11, Gonxha and the other novitiates taught at St. Teresa's School, a one-room schoolhouse affiliated with the convent. Here 20 small boys and girls met to receive instruction. She quickly earned a reputation for being hard working, cheerful, and charitable in her dealings with others. On March 24, 1931, Gonxha Bojaxhiu took her ?rst vows-a lifetime promise to charity, poverty, and obedience to God as a sister of Loreto.

       At this time, Gonxha chose a new name Teresa for herself to symbolize her new life with God. For the sisters in the Loreto Convent, however, the new Teresa soon had a nickname that further distinguished her: Bengali Teresa, an acknowledgment of her ability to speak the language so well.




         Gonxha Bojaxhiu, now called Sister Teresa, took the train from Darjeeling to Calcutta. There, she was to begin teaching at St. Mary's School, located in the eastern district of Calcutta. It was to be her place of residence and work for the next 17 years.

      During the 1920s, the contrast between the cities of Darjeeling and Calcutta was startling. In Darjeeling, one breathed clear mountain air, and a walk in a flower-filled meadow was not far away. But the city of Calcutta teemed with humanity, overcrowded and spilling into the streets and alleys throughout. It was on one hand a city enriched by the culture and arts of India; on the other, it was a cesspool of human misery and degradation.


MOTHERTERESA - ST. MARY'S SCHOOL :


          The school was hidden from the everyday world by high gray walls and tall iron gates. Upon passing through them entrance gates, one came upon a complex of buildings with playing ?elds and well-tended lawns. The campus comprised several buildings of varying architectural styles. Besides an administrative building and smaller gray classroom building was St. Mary's School. There were also quarters for the nuns and for those students who boarded at the school, mostly orphans, girls from broken homes, and children with only one parent. The school had already established a reputation for itself. Established in 1841, as one of the six Loreto schools in Calcutta, the Calcutta school in Entally educated orphans, the sons and daughters of the affluent and foreign families living in the city. All children wore the same uniform; there was no distinction by the sisters of the rich from the poor, the European from the Indian, Catholic from non-Catholic.





          Mother Teresa taught history and geography. She also became more comfortable in her use of the Bengali language as St. Mary's classes were taught in both English and Bengali. She soon added another language, Hindi.

          She also found solace and comfort through the happiness and gratitude of her young charges. Merely placing a hand on a dirty forehead or holding the hand of a small child brought her great joy. Many of the children took to calling her "Ma" which meant "Mother," a term that she treasured. Former students remember Sister Teresa as an engaging teacher. When teaching Sunday School catechism lessons, she often told stories of her own childhood in Skopje. Her geography classes were exciting; many students believed that she made the world come alive for them in a way not seen or felt before.

          Self discipline was essential if one was to accomplish everything in a timely fashion. Failure to do so indicated an inability to stay within the order.



Throughout her time at the school, Sister Teresa showed herself to be a pious but not overly demonstrative woman. She was charitable and did not tolerate unkindness from anyone, whether a child or an adult.

          She was, by all appearances, an ordinary nun, carrying out her religious duties. Neither was she particularly intelligent: her education at best was adequate. Some at the convent remember her more for her inability to light the candles at the Benediction service. As one sister who lived with her during this period recalled, "She was very ordinary. We just looked upon her as one of our sisters who was very devoted and dedicated."

          Working with Father Julien Henry, a Belgian Jesuit priest, Sister Teresa participated in the meetings, prayers, and study club sponsored by the group. On the other side of the convent wall was the slum area (bustee) known as Motijihl, or Pearl Lake, named for a discolored sump water pond located in the center of the area. It was from this pond that the residents drew their drinking, cooking, and washing water. Surrounding the pond were the wretched, mud-floor huts of the poor who lived in the neighborhood. It was an area desperately in need of comfort. For Father Henry, this was an opportunity to teach the older girls of St. Mary's about works of service. Every day during the school week, the priest met with the girls whose ages ranged from the early teens to their early twenties.

          On Saturday, the girls left the walls of their compound and ventured into Mothijihl in groups to visit with these families, often bearing small items for the children of the poor. Other groups traveled to the Nilratan Sarkar Hospital to visit the sick, where they comforted family members or wrote letters for those unable to do so.




Although Sister Teresa took great stock in the efforts of her students, she could not join them because of the rule of enclosure practiced by the Loreto nuns. But perhaps the most important outcome of these efforts was the indirect link forged between the poor of Calcutta and Sister Teresa.

          On May 24, 1937, Sister Teresa traveled to Darjeeling to take her final vows. During the ceremony,Teresa solemnly committed herself to the Loreto Sisters and to a lifetime of poverty, chastity, and obedience in service to the Lord. Upon her return to Calcutta, she once again plunged into her busy days and teaching, much to the delight of several young children who feared that she had gone away for good. Nothing had changed, save Sister Teresa’s name. She was now to be addressed as MotherTeresa, the name she would goby for the rest of her life. At theage of 27, her destiny seemedto be fulfilled. At the same time, India was in the midst of tryingto fulfill its own destiny.

          Inspiration Day was a turning point in the life for Mother Teresa. But there have been accounts of her life that have made erroneous connections between her desire to leave Loreto and her calling on the train to Darjeeling. One popular story stated that the killings and carnage she viewed during the August 19 6 riots were the sole inspiration for her leaving. Another account stated that she could view the slums of Calcutta from her bedroom window, which led to her decision.

          Mother Teresa was no stranger to the poverty in Calcutta. She had seen it firsthand upon her arrival as a novitiate and later as a teacher instructing the children of the poor. But until her train ride to Darjeeling, Mother Teresa firmly believed that she was carrying out God’s plan for her life and that she would best serve God as a nun living in Loreto. That was now all about to change.



          THE FIRST STEP As Mother Teresa recalled “The message was clear, I knew where I belonged, but I did not know how to get there.” On her return from Darjeeling, she immediately sought out Father Van Exem, her adviser showing him two sheets of paper on which she had written down her plans.

          He found the key ingredients as to what she was supposed to do: she was to leave Loreto, but she was to keep her vows. She was to start a new congregation or order of nuns, who would work for the poor in the slums. Years later, Father Van Exem stated that he believed her new vocation was just as true as her decision to leave Skopje and become a nun in leaving her mother. Now she was fully prepared to make a second decision, leaving the safe confines of the convent at Loreto and venturing out into the streets of Calcutta to work with the poor.

          Leaving the convent was not easy for Mother Teresa. It was, she admitted years later, the most difficult thing she had ever done, even harder than leaving her family and homeland. Besides the emotional turmoil, she still needed permission to leave.

          A RELUCTANT APPROVAL In Calcutta, the order of the Daughters of St. Anne, with whom Mother Teresa had worked while at the Loreto school, already ministered among the poor. They also dressed in Indian style, slept in a dormitory, ate simple food, and spoke Bengali. The archbishop asked Mother Teresa if she could work with the Daughters of St. Anne. Mother Teresa did not think so. What Mother Teresa was proposing was quite different. Her congregation wanted to be more mobile; they would visit the poor where needed. And she did not want just to work among the poor; she made it clear that she intended to work among the “poorest of the poor.”




          She also wanted to start from scratch and train her novices in her own way. An entire year passed before the archbishop was satisfied with the information he had received. Only then he gave permission to Mother Teresa to write to the mother general of the Loreto Sisters, asking for permission to be released from the order. Having to leave the Loreto Order was a severe disappointment, but she was to trust God fully and send the letter. With a heavy heart, Mother Teresa posted the letter to the mother general in Rathfarnham in early January 1948. Less than a month later, she had her reply:

          Since this is manifestly the will of God, I hereby give you permission to write to the Congregation in Rome. Do not speak to the Provincial. Do not speak to your Superiors. Speak to nobody. I did not speak to my own counselors. My consent is sufficient.

          Mother Teresa and Father Van Exem were overjoyed with the response. Mother Teresa now wrote another letter, this time to the office of the Vatican in Rome. Finally in February 1948, she sent the letter to Rome. In addition to Mother Teresa’s request,




Archbishop Périer also included a letter that outlined her life and service in Calcutta.

          Weeks and then months went by with no response from Rome. Finally in July 1948,. Rome had granted Mother Teresa’s request for exclaustration. She would be allowed to remain a member of the Loreto Order and work outside of the convent. It was a wonderful victory for Mother. There was, however, one condition: Mother Teresa would remain outside the cloister for a year, at which time, the archbishop would review her progress and decide whether she would return to the convent.

          On Sunday, August 8, 1948, Father Van Exem told her that he had received news from Rome. According to his account, Mother Teresa turned pale and requested to go to the chapel to pray. When she returned, he gave her the good news: not only did Rome agree to her request to leave the convent, but also that she continue her life as a Loreto Sister. She then signed three copies of the permission: one for Rome, one for the archbishop, and one for herself. She then asked, "Can I go to the slums now?"


AN EMOTIONAL DEPARTURE :

          Despite Mother Teresa’s willingness to leave immediately to begin her work, there was still much to be done to prepare for her departure. First, she needed to inform the convent that she was leaving. Archbishop Périer had feared a shocked reaction from the sisters. His fears were justified. When the decree was made public, the mother superior took to her bed for a week. Another sister wept uncontrollably; many were shocked at the announcement or mystified as to why one of their own, particularly one who seemed happy in her surroundings, would want to leave the convent.



          Those close to Mother Teresa worried about her health and whether she could sustain a rigorous life on the Calcutta streets. A notice posted on a Loreto blackboard requested the sisters not to criticize or praise Mother Teresa, but pray for her and her decision.


          In preparation for her departure from the convent, Mother Teresa purchased three saris from a local bazaar. Each one was white with three blue stripes; this simple garment would become the distinctive habit of her new order. The fabric was the cheapest available at the time, and was of the kind usually worn by poor Bengali women. The blue stripes held a special meaning for Mother Teresa, as the color is usually associated with the Virgin Mary. Father Van Exem later blessed the garments, along with a small cross and rosary, which had been placed on each garment in the St.Mary’s chapel. Mother Teresa needed to write a letter to her mother, explaining all that had happened. She believed that if her spiritual advisor also wrote the letter, that would settle any fears or worries her mother might have about her daughter’s decision to leave Loreto.



          Father Van Exem suggested that Mother Teresa take some medical training. Working in the slums, there would be plenty of opportunity to offer medical assistance. She agreed and decided to Mother News go to Patna in the state of Bihar where she would receive training from the Medical Mission Sisters at their hospital. Archbishop Périer supported the decision and Sister Stephanie Ingendaa, the mother superior at the hospital, warmly agreed to the request to help Mother Teresa in whatever way the sisters could. On August 16, a week after learning of the Vatican’s decision, Mother Teresa changed her clothes. The long black habit, with its floor-length skirt, the white coif, and black veil were laid aside. She now wore her new religious habit, a symbolic breaking with the religious uniform she had worn for the past two decades. Even though many of her former pupils wished to see their teacher in a sari, her leaving was a solitary affair. That evening, she left the convent grounds in a taxi as quietly as she had come almost 20 years before. In her pocket, she carried five rupees and a ticket to Patna.


A NEW BEGINNING :

          On August 17, Mother Teresa arrived at Patna, an old city located on the banks of the Ganges River. Sister Stephanie was there waiting to welcome her. They went together to the Holy Family Hospital, where Mother Teresa would spend the next few months receiving her medical training.

          The hospital was staffed by nuns who were doctors, mainly gynecologists, obstetricians, and surgeons. Other nuns served as nurses, laboratory technicians, and nutritionists. The hospital also housed a nursing school that many Indian girls attended.




Many of the sisters realized that she was in a period of transition, and while Mother Teresa knew what she was to do, she was still unclear about how she was to carry out her calling. In the meantime, the Medical Mission Sisters tried to make her feel at home and helped prepare her for the grueling work ahead. Now, instead of lecturing students, Mother Teresa’s days were filled with new experiences; she never knew what to expect from one day to the next. Whenever there was a new admission, an impending birth-or operation, Mother Teresa was summoned at the same time as a doctor was.


          This experience not only gave Mother Teresa an opportunity to practice her Hindi, in which she was not very fluent, but to become acquainted with expectant mothers, fatal accidents, ill and abandoned children, and death on the operating table. She also learned to tend to patients ill and dying with cholera or small pox. One nun remembered that, no matter what the calamity, Mother Teresa remained unfazed by it, maintaining her focus on the patient. She could always be counted on to hold a dying patient’s hand, to comfort a small child frightened by the hospital, or to cradle a newborn infant in her arms. She learned how to do many simple medical procedures such as making a hospital bed, giving injections, and administering medicines.



          She helped to assist in delivering babies, something in which she took special delight. Working with the nutritionists, Mother Teresa learned about the importance of a healthy diet, hygiene, and adequate rest. This knowledge was key to carrying out her work in the slums. As Mother Teresa came to know many of the poor families of the area, she attended weddings, feasts, and funerals, slowly entering their world and becoming one of them.


BUILDING A FOUNDATION :

          During the evenings when not working at the hospital, Mother Teresa discussed her plans with many members of the Medical Mission Sisters. She welcomed ideas, practical suggestions, and criticism from others about how she should best implement her plans. One thing became clear: if Mother Teresa’s proposed order wanted to work with the poor, they would have to commit themselves to working only for the poor.

Out of these discussions became the foundation for Mother Teresa’s congregation-”Missionaries of Charity”.

          Mother Teresa completed her four months of medical training at the Medical Mission Sisters Hospital, Pune and returned to Calcutta. On her return to the Archbishop found a place for her to live with the Little Sisters of the Poor. She arrived at the St. Joseph’s Home for the elderly, located at 2, Lower Circular Road, Calcutta on December 9, 1948. The St.Joseph’s Home proved to be a good choice for Mother Teresa. She also spent part of her time during those first days at the convent helping the sisters who care for the aged patients.

          Remarking that she had no idea how she was going to proceed or where she would even begin, Mother Teresa nonetheless remained confident that God would direct her. And with that thought, she made her way back to Calcutta to undertake her life’s work. Although Calcutta had the third highest per-capita income in India, it was a vast sea of suffering and despair. The streets, where people were born and died were crowded with



          beggars and lepers, together with a host of refugees from the countryside who had never known a home. Unwanted infants were regularly abandoned and left to die in clinics, on the streets, or in garbage bins. There were thousands of pavement dwellers within the city itself, 44 percent of the city did not have sewers. It was into this sea of misery that Mother Teresa now came.


MOTIJIHL :

          On December 21, 1948, Mother Teresa left her small room on the first floor near the gate of St. Joseph’s and went to mass. After breakfast, she left the convent grounds and boarded a bus bound for Mauli Ali to begin her work. She was dressed in her white sari, but she wore it not as a poor Bengali woman but instead wrapped around her head covering a tiny cotton cap. Completing her habit was a small black crucifix, attached to her left shoulder by a safety pin. Under her rough leather sandals, a gift from the Patna sisters, she wore no stockings. With a meager lunch in a small packet she entered the world of the Calcutta slums.

          Her first stop was in the slum of Motijihl, which means “Pearl Lake”. While there was no lake, there was a large brackish sump in the center of the neighborhood that provided the area’s residents with water. Raw sewage fl owed into open drains and garbage lay piled on the streets. The slum’s residents lived in small hovelsm with dirt floors. There was no school, no hospital, and no dispensary. Motijihl was already a familiar place for Mother Teresa. So she personally visited with as many families as she could and told them she had permission to start a school right in the area. As a result, several parents promised to send their children to her the next morning.



---To be Continued


News & Events

    • "Admissions open in our free tailoring unit at Ambur, velore District, Contact Mr. A. Krishnan - 9789467627."
    • Are you a blood donor ? Join as member in "MTCT Blood Donors Guild" . if you need blood kindly Login www.motherteresacharities.org. For details contact - +91 44 23743883.
    • Admissions open for the next new batch in our free tailoring centre at Padalam, Kanchipuram district.Contact : Benny - 9787909450.
    • Admissions open for Mother Teresa Charitable Trust free Tailoring unit and Tution center at uthangarai, Krishnagiri District. Contact Shanmuga Sundaram - 9941404000
    • Admissions open in our free Tuition center and free tailoring unit at Delhi contact: Mr Avishek 09717886106.
    • Support our free tailoring centers, free tuition centers and free computer study centers functioning at several places in India, so that the needy will be benefited.
    • Join Mother Teresa Forum (MTF) and form committees in your area, to serve the downtrodden and under privileged in the society.
    • Require 2 computers for running free computer center at Delhi. kindly donate.
    • Require 4 Tailoring machines for running free tailoring unit at vellore, Tamilnadu.
    • Contribute 4 computers and 8 Tailoring machines to run Two computers / Tailoring centers in Bihar.

Contact Info

  • Nobel Laureate Mother Teresa Charitable Trust,
    43, Nelson Manickam Road, Choolaimedu, Chennai-600094.India.
  • PHONE : +91 44 23743883, +91 44 23742699
  • MOBILE : 8939300227
  • MAIL : mtct1997@yahoo.co.in, mtct1997@gmail.com