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Mother Teresa recalls:
"I realized that I had the call to take care of the sick and the dying, the hungry, the naked, the homeless - to be God's Love in action to the poorest of the poor. That was the beginning of the Missionaries of Charity."


Mother Teresa, the 'Saint of the Gutters', has come to epitomise selflessness in her dedication to the destitute, the suffering and the dying. Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Serbia in 1910 to Albanian parents, she joined the Irish Order of Loreto nuns in 1929 and was sent to Darjeeling as a teacher. Moving to a school in Kolkata in 1937 she was horrified at the numbers of poor people left to die on the streets of the city because there was nowhere else for them to go. She began to feel that behind the secure walls of the nunnery she was too far removed from the people she wanted to help.

The Missionaries of Charity was Mother Teresa's new order, formed in 1950. Among their vows is the promise 'to give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor'. This vow was put into action with the setting up of several homes including Nirmal Hriday (the home for the dying), Shanti Nagar (for lepers) and Nirmala Shishu Bhavan (the children's home). There are now homes in many other places, staffed not only by nuns but also by volunteers of co-workers.
    
For all her saintliness, Mother Teresa  is not without her critics. Germaine Greer, for example, has accused her of being a religious imperialist, although anyone who has spent some time with the nuns and seen them at work could hardly call them Bible-bashing evangelists. Mother Teresa herself has said that hers is contemplative work. Her inspiration is spiritual and Christian but it is put into practice mainly by ministering to physical needs. In 1979 her work achieved world recognition when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
    
Old age finally slowed Mother Teresa down, and with three major operations in the last five years, worldwide attention kept  track of her heartbeat almost as keenly as her pacemaker did. in early 1997, Mother Teresa resigned her position at the Missionaries due to bad health, and was replaced by Sister Nirmala.

The 87-year old Nobel laureate died of severe cardiac arrest at the Missionaries of Charity headquarters on September 5, 1997 at 21.30 hours. With the death of "Saint of Gutters", the light has gone out of the lives of the poor and the downtrodden.

Mother herself had no personal property or savings. But her real wealth was the millions of destitute orphaned and abandoned sufferers around the world. 

   

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