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mother Teresa

On October 17, 1979, the Nobel Prize Committee announced that the nun Mother Teresa would receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The Catholic nun was the founder of the order "Missionaries of Charity" and worked in the slums of Calcutta.

Mother Teresa was born on August 26, 1910 under the name Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Skopje, today's capital of Macedonia. At that time the city was still part of the Ottoman Empire. She grew up in a Catholic family and was raised very religiously by her parents. At the age of twelve she decided to lead a life as a nun.

Nun at 18

at the age of 18 she asked to be accepted into the order of the Loreto Sisters. This Irish branch of the English Misses was particularly active in India to help poor children get an education. After a short stay in Ireland, Agnes traveled to Bengal. In 1930 she made her first vow there. Mother Teresa was her religious name. She worked at St. Mary's School in Calcutta for 17 years. First she was a teacher, later a director.

Help for the poorest of the poor

From her diaries it can be seen that Mother Teresa was a deeply doubted Christian. The sight of constant poverty in Calcutta made them doubt the existence of God. This uncertainty also made her doubt the meaning of her work and sincerity, the importance of church rituals or sacraments (such as prayer, mass and confession) and her relationship with fellow human beings. Nevertheless, during one of her many journeys through the city of Calcutta in 1946, she felt the "divine calling" to help the poor. In her diary she describes this experience as a mystical encounter with Jesus, who asked her to give up everything and follow him into the slums - to serve him in the poorest of the poor.
It took another two years before she was allowed to leave the order for this purpose without having to give up her religious status as a religious sister. From then on she lived among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta.

The saint of the gutter

Mother Teresa initially worked as an individual until some of her former students joined her. An article in Life magazine earned her the nickname Saint of the Gutters ("Saint of the Gutter") a.
She took Indian citizenship in 1948 and founded the order two years later "Missionaries of Charity". Members commit themselves to celibacy, poverty and obedience. The order was later recognized by the Pope and controlled by the Catholic Church. The focus of the work put the order on the care of the dying, orphans and sick.

Help for the lepers

Mother Teresa's order took special care of the lepers. Leprosy is an infectious disease that has been known since ancient times. Those who were infected were considered lepers and were shunned and cast out by society. Although leprosy is now all but wiped out in countries with developed health care, it is still a problem in India today.
In response to the often inadequate medical training of her employees, Mother Teresa used to reply: It is not success that is important, but loyalty in faith. " She ignored her own doubts about this belief.

Lots of awards

Mother Theresa received numerous prizes for her work. The most important were the Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Fraternity among the Nations in 1978 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. In 1985, the then US President Ronald Reagan personally presented her with the Freedom Medal.

Criticism and doubt

The work of the nuns around Mother Theresa was not only praised, but also criticized. Patients are said to have been harmed by the nuns' treatment. B. by using non-sterilized, re-used syringes. Often the house was so overcrowded that the patients were housed in large numbers on primitive camp beds in a very small space. The food supply is also said not always to have been guaranteed to the necessary extent.
The need fed Mother Teresa's doubts. In her diary she wrote: It's freezing inside of me or The souls no longer attract me - the sky means nothing anymore - to me it looks like an empty place. "

Death and beatification

Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997 and was buried in Calcutta in the monastery that she had founded herself. On October 19, 2003, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II. It was the fastest beatification in modern times. The doubts about the existence of God expressed in Mother Teresa's diaries do not constitute an obstacle for church leaders to a possible canonization, as many saints have difficulties with faith.

Text: RR, as of October 12, 2009, photos: Túrelio (Mother Teresa 1986 in Bonn) cc by sa 2.0, US Government (Mother Teresa with Nancy and Ronald Reagan)

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