St. Teresa of Calcutta
Feast Day: Sept. 4
Born Aug. 26, 1910 in Skopje, a city situated at the crossroads of Balkan history, she was baptized Gonxha Agnes. Her father’s sudden death when Gonxha was about 8 left the family in financial straits, and her mother’s raising of her and her siblings greatly influenced her daughter’s character and vocation.
At 18, Gonxha left her home in 1928 to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Loreto Sisters, in Ireland. There she received the name Sr. Mary Teresa after St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In December, she departed for India, arriving in Calcutta Jan. 6, 1929. Sr. Teresa made her professed final Vows in 1937, becoming, as she said, the “spouse of Jesus” for “all eternity.” From that time on she was called Mother Teresa.
On Sept. 10, 1946 during the train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, Mother Teresa received her “inspiration,” her “call within a call” — to establish a religious community, Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to the service of the poorest of the poor. Nearly two years of testing and discernment passed before Mother Teresa received permission to begin, and in 1958 she dressed for the first time in a white, blue-bordered sari and passed through the gates of her beloved Loreto convent to enter the world of the poor.
During the years of rapid growth, the world began to turn its eyes towards Mother Teresa and the work she had started. Numerous awards, beginning with the Indian Padmashri Award in 1962 and notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, honored her work, while an increasingly interested media began to follow her activities. She humbly accepted both prizes and attention “for the glory of God and in the name of the poor.”
During the last years of her life, despite increasingly severe health problems, Mother Teresa continued to govern her Society and respond to the needs of the poor and the Church. By 1997, Mother Teresa’s Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members and were established in 610 foundations in 123 countries of the world. She died Sept. 5 of that year. St. John Paul II beatified his old friend in 2003, and Pope Francis canonized her during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016.
Impact on the Diocese of Phoenix
In 1989, St. Teresa visited the Diocese of Phoenix with the intention of starting a community of the Missionaries of Charity in Phoenix, who still serve to this day. “I do it with Jesus. I do it for Jesus. I do it to Jesus. That’s why we meet and have Communion every day at Mass,” she told The Catholic Sun in an interview. She is a patron of the diocese’s “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” campaign.