Perhaps the best known public figure is Mother Teresa. Many still do not realize that she was Albanian. Below is a short biography of this wonderful, holy woman as taken from her website along with some photos.
MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA (1910-1997)
“By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
Mother Teresa nee Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (left) and sister Age Bojaxhiu wearing traditional Albanian costumes c.1923
This luminous messenger of God’s love was born on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, a city situated at the crossroads of the Balkan. They youngest of children born to Nikoa and Drane Bojaxhiu, she was baptised Gonxha Agnes, received her First Communion at the age of five and a half and was confirmed in November 1916. Her father’s sudden death when Gonxha was about eight years old left the family in financial straights. Drane raised her children firmly and lovingly, greatly influencing her daughter’s character and vocation. Gonxha’s religious formation developed further through her extensive involvement in the vibrant Jesuit paris of the Sacred Heart.
At the age of eighteen, moved by a desire to become a missionary, Gonxha left her home in September 1928 to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto, in Ireland. There she received the name Sister Mary Teresa after St. Therese of Lisieux. In December, she departed for India, arriving in Calcutta on January 6, 1929. After making her First Profession of Vows in May 1931, Sister Teresa was assigned to the Loreto Entally community in Calcutta and taught at St. Mary’s School for girls. On May 24, 1937, Sister Teresa made her Final Profession of Vows, becoming, as she said, the “spouse of Jesus” for “all eternity.” From that time on, she was called Mother Teresa. She continued teaching at St. Mary’s and in 1944 became the school’s principal. A person of profoung prayer with deep love for her religious sisters and her students, Mother Teresa’s twenty years in Loreto were filled with genuine happiness. Noted for her charity, unselfishness and courage, her capacity for hard work and a natural talent for organization, she lived out her consecration to Jesus, in the midst of her companions, with fidelity and joy.
On September 10, 1946 during the train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, Mother Teresa received he “inspiration,” her “call within a call.” On that day, in a way she would never explain, Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls so penetrated her heart that the desire to satiate His thirst became the driving force of her life. Over the course of the next weeks and months, by means of interior locutions and visions, Jesus revealed to her the desire of His heart for “victims of love” who would “radiate His love on souls.” “Come be My light,”He begged her. “I cannot go alone.” He revealed His pain at the neglect of the poor, His sorrow at their ignorance of Him and His longing fr their love. He asked Mother Teresa to establish a religious community, the Missionaries of Charity Sisters, 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. On August 17, 1948, 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.
After a short course with the Medical Mission Sisters in Patna, Mother Teresa returned to Calcutta and found temporary lodging with the Little Sisters of the Poor. On December 21, she went for the first time to the slums. She visited families, washed the sores of some children, cared for an old man lying sick on the road and nursed a woman dying of hunger and TB. She started each day in communion with Jesus in the Eucharist and then went out, rosary in her hand, to find and serve Him in “the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for.” After some months, she was joined by a number of her former students.
On 7 October, 1950 the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was officially established in the Archdiocese of Calcutta. By the early 1960’s, Mother Teresa began to send her sisters to other parts of India. After the Decree of Praise was granted to the Congregation by Pope Paul VI in February 1965, she opened a house in Venezuela. It was soon followed by foundations in Rome and Tanzania and, eventually, in every continents. Starting in 1980 and continuing through the 1990’s, Mother Teresa opened houses in almost all of the communist countries, including the former Soviet Union, Albania and Cuba.
In order to respond better to both the physical and spiritual needs of the poor, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity Brothers in 1963, the contemplative branch of the sisters in 1976, the contemplative brothers in 1979, and the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in 1984. Yet her inspiration was not limited to those with religious vocations. She formed the co-Workers of Mother Teresa and the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers; people of many faiths and nationalities with whom she shared her spirit of prayer, simplicity, sacrifice and her apostolate of humble works of love. This spirit later inspired the Lady Missionaries of charity. In answer to the requests of many priests, Mother Teresa also began the Corpus Christy Movement for Priests in 1981 as a “little way of holiness” for those priests desiring to share in her charism and spirit.
During these years of rapid growth, the world began to focus its attention on Mother Teresa and the work she had started. Numerous awards – beginning with the Indian Padmashri Award in 1962 and notably the Nobel Peace Price in 1979 – honoured her work, while increasingly interested media began to follow her activities. She received both prizes and attention “for the glory of God and in the name of the poor.”
The whole of Mother Teresa’s life and labour bore witness to the joy of loving, the greatness and dignity of every human person, the value of little things done faithfully and with love, and the surpassing worth of friendship with God. But there was another heroic side of this great woman which was revealed only after her death. Hidden from all eyes, hidden even from those closest to her, was her interior life marked by an experience of a deep, painful and abiding feeling of being separated from God, even rejected by Him, along with an ever-increasing longing for His love. She called her inner experience, “the darkness.” The “painful night” of her soul, which began around the time she started her work for the poor and continued to the end of her life, led Mother Teresa to an ever more profound union with God. Through this darkness she mystically participated in the thirst of Jesus – His painful and burning longing for love – and shared in the interior desolation 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 and were established in 610 foundations in 123 countries of the world. In March 1997, she blessed her newly elected successor as Superior General of the Missionaries of charity and then made one more trip abroad. After meeting Pope John Paul II for the last time, she returned to Calcutta and spent her final weeks receiving visitors and instructing her Sisters. On September 5 Mother Teresa’s earthly life came to an end. She was given the honour of a state funeral by the Government of India and her body was buried in the Mother House of the Missionaries of charity. Her tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage and prayer for the people of all faiths, rich and poor alike. Mother Teresa left a testament of unshakable faith, invincible hope and extraordinary charity. Her response to Jesus’ plea, “Come be My light,” made her a Missionary of Charity, a “mother to the poor,” a symbol of compassion to the world, and a living witness to the thirsting love of God.
Less than two years after her death, in view of Mother Teresa’s widespread reputation of holiness and the favours being reported, Pope John Paul II permitted the opening of her Cause of Canonization. On December 20, 2002 he approved the decrees confirming her heroic virtue and a miracle attributed to her intercession. On October 19, 2003, the holy Father beatified Mother Teresa before a joyful and prayerful crows of at least 300,000 assembled in St. Peter’s Square in a spirit of thanksgiving to God for the gift of her life and holiness. The gathering reflected all the diversity of the world which Mother Teresa had touched in her life time, united there precisely because of the loving influence of one rightly called “Mother.”
Mother Teresa visited New York City in 2009 and met with Albanians at the Albanian Church in the Bronx. In this video you can see images of her meeting the congregation and hear her speaking Albanian.