Mother Teresa, born in 1910 in a remote corner of former Yugoslavia, died of cardiac arrest, at 9:30 p.m. local Indian time, on Friday 5th. September, 1977, at
the age of 87 in eastern India. Known to the world as
one of the most charitable women in history, her loss
will be mostly felt by those who benefited from her
most - the poor and the ill. Once a teacher of geography, she built a charitable order that touched the four corners
of the world, and became one of the most well-known
and highly respected women in the world during the latter half of the twentieth century.
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Pope John Paul II greeting
Mother Teresa at the Vatican.

AP Photograph

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Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, in what is now Macedonia, her Albanian parents, Nikola and Dronda Bojaxhiu, settled in Skopje at the beginning of the century. Her father, a co-owner of a construction firm, gave her a comfortable home to grow up in. In 1928 she suddenly decided to become a nun and left her loving family, her prosperous and comfortable
home; and travelled to Dublin, Ireland, to join the Sisters of Loreto, a religious order founded in the seventeenth century. In 1929, after studying at the convent for less than a year, she left to join the Loreto Convent, in Darjeeling, northeast India, to teach geography at St. Mary's High School for Girls in Calcutta. On May 24, 1931, she took the name of "Teresa" in honour of St. Teresa of Avila, a 16th-century Spanish nun.

For the first 19 years in India, Sister Teresa taught within the walls of a convent - while Calcutta's streets teemed with destitute war refugees, abandoned children and lepers. But in 1946, on a train back to Darjeeling, after witnessing a violent eruption of Hindu-Muslim rioting, which left 5,000 people dead,� Teresa became convinced that God had sent her a message to �� go out and minister in the slums to the city's poor. To work outside the convent, however, she would need approval from� Rome. After a two-year campaign, she finally persuaded the Church of the authenticity of her vision.

In 1948, Pope Pius XII granted Mother Teresa permission to live as an independent nun. That same year, she became an Indian citizen. After studying nursing for three months with the American Medical Missionaries in the Indian city of Patna, she returned to Calcutta. Teresa left the convent, wearing a sari and� carrying five rupees in her pocket, to live "as an Indian among Indians", and founded a religious order of nuns in Calcutta, � called the Missionaries of Charity. For her habit she chose a plain white sari with a blue border and a simple cross pinned to her left shoulder. Through this order, she dedicated her life to helping the poor, the sick, and the dying in India, and later throughout the world. Her selfless work with the needy brought her much acclaim and many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

To the sick, for whom she found food and medicine, Mother Teresa was a blessing; to others, she was a threat. Hindus, enraged at her plan to open a home for the dying in a former temple, hurled stones at her and her co-workers. Mother Teresa� pacified them by sprinkling water from the Ganges River on a dying man's lips - an ancient Hindu rite. As Mother Teresa's organisation, the Missionaries of Charity, grew throughout India and the world, she would find herself more adversaries. Her sometimes controversial beliefs did not always sit well with everybody.

Mother Teresa initially focused her efforts on the poor children� in the streets, teaching them how to read and care for themselves. In 1949 she was joined by her first recruit, a young� girl from the city of Bengal. Many of those who joined her order� over the next few years were former students from St. Mary's, each recruit devoting her life to serving the poor without accepting any material reward in return.

In 1952 Mother Teresa began work for which the Missionaries of Charity has been noted ever since. Her order received permission from Calcutta officials to use a portion of the abandoned temple to the goddess Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. Here Mother Teresa founded the Kalighat Home for the Dying. She and her fellow nuns gathered dying Indians off the streets of Calcutta and brought them to this home to care for them during their last days.

In the mid-1950s, Mother Teresa began to help victims of leprosy. The Indian government gave the Missionaries of Charity a 34-acre plot of land near the city of Asansol. Under Mother Teresa's guidance, a leper colony was established here, called Shanti Nagar (Town of Peace). For her work among the people of India, the Indian government gave her the Padmashree ("Magnificent Lotus") Award in September of 1962.

In 1965 Pope Paul VI placed the Missionaries of Charity directly under the control of the papacy (the office of the pope). He also authorised Mother Teresa to expand the order outside of India. Centres to treat lepers, the blind, the disabled, the aged, and the dying were soon opened world-wide, including one� in Rome in 1968. Mother Teresa also organised schools and orphanages for the poor. The Brothers of Charity, the male companion to the Sisters of Charity, was formed in the mid� 1960s to run the homes for the dying.

In 1971 Pope Paul VI honoured Mother Teresa by awarding her the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize. The following year the government of India presented her with the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. In 1979 she received her greatest award, the Nobel Peace Prize. Mother Teresa accepted all of these awards on behalf of the poor, using any money that accompanied them to fund her centers. By 1990 over 3,000 nuns belonged to the Missionaries of Charity, running centres in 25 countries.

Despite experiencing moments of disappointment, Mother Teresa has had many moments of celebration. In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for upholding the sacredness and dignity of every human being. She has prayed with Popes, Presidents, Princes and Princesses. She even developed a special relationship with the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and, although a devout Catholic, offered public support at the time of� her divorce.

Mother Teresa remained firm in her vision of the world's true needs: humble acts of mercy on God's behalf: finding peace in practising the radical power of love.

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Her lifetime work continues,

her name lives on..........

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SPONSOR A DOCTOR ON HIS 'TOUR - de - FRANCE' CYCLE RIDE

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