Mother Teresa made India proud when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1997 for her services to the down-trodden and the destitute in India. She has been variously described as apostle of love and peace, an angel of mercy, an embodiment of compassion, and a woman devoted to the service of the poorest of poor. She has been appreciated and admired not only in India but throughout the world as a Living Saint’ who devoted herself to the welfare of unwanted and crippled children, lepers, and ailing humanity.
The real name of Mother Teresa was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhin and was the daughter of Albanian parents living in Yugoslavia. She was born on August 27, 1910. She went to Ireland at the age of eighteen and entered the congregation (A group of people gathered for religious service) of Loretto at the Institute of Blessed Virgin Mary. After living and learning there for six weeks and after being baptised in 1929, she sailed for India where she began teaching in the congregation’s schools and convents. She continued teaching for twenty years. Then she was given the responsibility of being the Principal of St. Augustin’s Day School for Bengali girls near Calcutta. Calcutta became her home and it was here that she set up Missionaries of Charity in 1949 and started serving the poor, the sick, the downtrodden and the destitute living in the slums of Calcutta. She started a leper colony named Shanti Nager in West Bengal. She also opened schools, charitable dispensaries, a T.B. clinic, and homes for unwanted and crippled children and Nirmal Hridaya. Thus she devoted herself whole-heartedly to the service of the poor and the weak and the helpless.
Mother Teresa translated her beliefs and principles into practice. She belonged to the category of those who practice what they believe and preach. It was her firm belief that the greatest problem for the weak and the destitute was not an ailment but the want of love, sympathy and charity. She believed that the feeling of neglect and unwantedness was the biggest affliction or disease for humanity. She worked day and night ceaselessly to provide sympathy and help to the suffering humanity. She proved by her deeds that she was really a symbol of peace and piety. She was a devout Christian and a living testimony of the teachings of Jesus Christ. For all this she was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace.
Mother Teresa was now 87 and was ailing for some time. So she stepped down as head of the Order on March 13, 1997 and. Sister Nirmala was elected as the new head. Mother Teresa did not survive long. She breathed her last on September 5, 1997 at 9.30 p.m. at the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity. India and the whole world plunged into grief. Her funeral took place on September 13, 1997 with full state honours. All national flags on state buildings flew at half-mast. In order to pay homage to her memory, the Union Cabinet adopted a two-page resolution. The Government of India issued an extraordinary gazette to mourn the Mother’s death.
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