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Our Patron - Mother Teresa, the Living Saint of India

On January 6, 1929, a simple, ordinary girl of 18 years alighted from the ‘Bombay Mail’ at Howrah railway station at Calcutta presently known as Kolkata. No one took notice of her as there were many foreigners in India then because of the British rule. No one knew that one day she would become the living saint of India - neither she herself!

Born on August 26, 1910 at Skopje, then a part of the kingdom of Albania, to Nicholas Bojaxhiu and Dranafile Bernai, she was named Agnes, but her parents called her Gonxha, ‘flower bud’ in Albanian, for she was pink and plump.

Agnes and her sister began to participate in a number of parish activities at the church of Sacred Hearts. Father Jambrenkovic, who became the pastor in 1925, started a branch of a society called Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was to have a far reaching effect on Agnes, for it was the same Sodality she was to join, years later in the Entally Convent in Calcutta.

In the Sodality, they learned about the lives of saints and missionaries which struck an especially strong chord in Agnes. She learned that there was an order of nuns serving in Bengal whose main work was in the field of education. At the age of 18, she decided to leave home to become a nun. By then she had realised her vocation was towards the poor.

On May 24, 1931, Agnes took her first vows, those of poverty, chastity and obedience as a sister of Loreto. She was known as Sr Teresa since then. She was now sent to teach at St Mary’s School, a part of Loreto Convent in the Calcutta suburb of Entally. Sister Teresa saw the poverty and suffering of the people specially in 1942 and 1943, when the Great Bengal Famine stalked the land.

Turning point
September 10, 1946 is a day in the life of Sister Teresa which gave a great Saint to India. She was on her way to Darjeeling for her retreat. “It was an inner command,” she says, to renounce Loreto, where she was happy, to go to serve the poor in the streets. This call made her to leave the Loreto Convent and with permission from Pope, she started her own Congregation ‘Missionaries of Charity’.

On August 17, 1948, Mother Teresa wore for the very first time the sari, white in colour with blue borders, and on them a small cross and a rosary. ‘The Bengali Teresa’ had started on her ‘little way’. On October 7, 1950, her Congregation was canonically erected.

On December 20, 1948, she stepped out, for the first time, into the ‘bustee’ of Motijhil and it was from here that the little lamp began to give light to the poorest. From there on, there was nothing untouched by Mother Teresa and the people began calling her the Saint of the Gutters. She won many laurels including the Bharat Ratna Award. All these she accepted humbly for the love of the poor and whatever she got from these awards she spent that for the poor.

Mangalore connection
Mother Teresa still lives in this world through her more than 700 convents in about 130 countries. There is one convent of Mother Teresa in Mangalore ‘Mother Teresa Home’ in the Parish of Milagres near Unity Hospital in Falnir. The first ever church dedicated to Mother Teresa in the Diocese of Mangalore is at Paldane named after her as "Blessed Teresa of Kolkata Church". It may be recalled that Mother Teresa had passed through this place to visit the old age house at Neermarga when she had visited Mangalore in 1995. A number of people and hundreds of students still remember the Mother’s visit to Mangalore.

No doubt, Mother Teresa was a great gift of God to the world. In Mother’s own words: “You have a heart to love, two hands to serve. You don’t need any training for this work. Just listen to the loving message of God.”