Mother Teresa: A Beacon of Philanthropy and Compassion

by Celia Cooksey

Mother Teresa, born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910, was a remarkable woman whose life serves as an inspiration to millions around the world. Of Albanian descent, she left her childhood home in Skopje (now North Macedonia) at the age of 18 in her relentless pursuit of alleviating the suffering of the poor and destitute in Kolkata, India, and beyond. Her unwavering dedication and extraordinary contributions to the world of service and philanthropy makes her an icon and inspiration for many.

From an early age, she displayed a strong desire to help those in need and a deep commitment to her Catholic faith. By the age of 12, she knew there was some purpose for her, though she was uncertain how that might look. She left her family home at 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto. It was then that she took the name Sister Mary Teresa.

“We ourselves feel what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

During her time as a teacher in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India, at St. Mary’s High School, she saw that there was tremendous suffering and poverty outside of the convent walls. The sights left such a deep impression on her that she felt a profound inner calling to serve the poorest of the poor and experienced what is known to be her “call within a call.”

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

In 1948, she received permission to leave her convent and begin her life’s work among the impoverished communities of Kolkata. Although she had no funds, she trusted in her faith and started an open-air school for slum children. It wasn’t long afterwards that the community joined in and helped through volunteer work and financial support, which made it possible for her to expand her scope.

On October 7, 1950, along with a handful of devoted followers, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity. The organization’s mission was simple yet profound: to provide love and care to those who had been abandoned, neglected, and marginalized by society. Their work extended to caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and sheltering the homeless.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

One of Mother Teresa’s most significant contributions to the world of philanthropy was her unwavering belief in the intrinsic value of every human being, regardless of their circumstances. She saw the face of Christ in each person she served, and this belief guided her work. Her philosophy of “small things with great love” emphasized the importance of even the most modest acts of kindness and compassion.

Under Mother Teresa’s leadership, the Missionaries of Charity expanded their philanthropic efforts beyond Kolkata to other parts of India and around the world and become a Society of Missionaries. They provide help to the poorest of the poor and open homes, clinics, and schools in some of the most impoverished and disease-ridden regions, offering solace, medical care, and education to those in need. In addition, they undertake relief work in the wake of natural catastrophes and for refugees.

Mother Teresa’s dedication to the sick and dying was particularly notable. She founded the Kalighat Home for the Dying in Kolkata, a place where the destitute and terminally ill could receive medical care and find comfort in their final moments. This establishment, along with similar centers, helped countless individuals pass away with dignity and surrounded by love.

It was through Mother Teresa’s selfless dedication to the poorest of the poor that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her tireless efforts to alleviate suffering and promote peace. The Nobel Committee noted that she had made a significant contribution to the cause of humanity, emphasizing the importance of compassion, love, and understanding in the pursuit of peace.

Mother Teresa passed away on September 5, 1997, but her legacy lives on. The Missionaries of Charity continue their work worldwide, with thousands of sisters and volunteers carrying forward her mission of love and compassion. Her life and work inspire people from all walks of life to engage in philanthropy and volunteerism. Her story reminds us that even one person, armed with love and a commitment to helping others, can make a profound difference in the world.

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

Mother Teresa’s life was a testament to the power of love and compassion in the world of philanthropy. Her unwavering commitment to serving the poorest of the poor, her humility, and her belief in the inherent worth of every individual have left an indelible mark on the hearts of people worldwide. The spirit of philanthropy is about more than just giving money or time. It’s about the human expression of love and compassion. It’s about lifting each other up and being there for someone who may be in the middle of hard times. Mother Teresa is an inspiration, and her legacy continues to shine brightly as a beacon of hope for many more generations to come.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today.”

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