Saint Mother Teresa of Skopje
On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis has declared Mother Teresa a saint and made her hometown Skopje particularly proud of its famous native. Known as the "saint of the gutters", Mother Teresa devoted her life to the poor and homeless people.
Love for people when they need it most, was the most powerful force with which she conquered the world. Making no difference who and from where is, of which religion, race and nation belongs to Mother Teresa opened the most beautiful human and spiritual values among people, showing with her personal example of self-sacrifice the meaning of charity and philanthropy.
Mother Teresa is an offspring of Skopje, but the wealth of the world and servant of the omnipotent God, whom she searched him in every person. Nobody has the right to appropriate her because the world was her home, and her love and humanity a mirror of merciful life.
Mother Teresa was born into a financially comfortable ethnic Albanian family in Skopje on August 26, 1910 under the name Gonxhe Bojaxhiu. She was the youngest child of three in the family. Mother Teresa spent her entire childhood in Skopje at a very turbulent time for the region, including two Balkan wars and World War I.
The Bojaxhiu family held tightly to their religious beliefs. The family prayed daily and went on pilgrimages annually. Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was baptized as Agnes in the old Roman Catholic Church “Sacred heart of Jesus” just one day after her birth. The church was on the popular Macedonia Street in the city center, on the same location where today stands the Memorial House of Mother Teresa.
A devastating tragedy hit the family when her father Nikola, who was a successful merchant and the only Roman Catholic member of the city council of Skopje, died when she was eight years old, ending her family’s financial security. Her mother Dranafile, a devoutly religious woman, was forced to open an embroidery and cloth business to support the family.
At the age of twelve Mother Teresa began to feel called to serve God and to help the poor. This calling took sharper focus through her teenage years, period of her life that she spends singing in the church choir and helping her mother organize church events. At that time she was especially inspired by reports of work being done by Catholic missionaries serving in India.
Skopje’s most famous daughter left the city when she turn 18 in September 1928 to join the Order of the Sisters of Loreto, based at Loreto Abbey in Ireland, who had missions in India. In Ireland she learned the history of the Loreto order, studied English and then transfer to India, where she arrived on January 6, 1929. She never saw her family again.
Mother Teresa took her first vows as a Loreto nun on May 24, 1931, choosing the name Sister Mary Teresa to honor Saints Therese of Lisieux. Her final vows she took on May 24, 1937 and officially became "Mother Teresa."
After arriving in India, she began teaching history and geography in Calcutta at St. Mary’s, a high school for the daughters of the wealthy. She remained there until 1946 and enjoyed the work, but was distressed by the surrounding slums where she witnessed profound suffering and poverty.
On September 10, 1946, a day now annually celebrated as "Inspiration Day", Mother Teresa traveled to Darjeeling for a retreat and on that journey she experienced what she called a second vocation or "call within a call." She felt an inner urging to leave the convent life of a nun and work directly with the poor. Next two years she will spend in planning and patiently asking for consent to go helping in the slums, and finally in 1948 she received special permission from Vatican to leave the convent school and devote herself full time to her calling. After she took an intensive medical training in Patna with the Medical Mission Sisters to obtain some basic medical knowledge, the 38-year-old Mother Teresa felt ready to venture out into the slums of Calcutta in December of 1948.
At the beginning Mother Teresa moved to a small rented hovel in the slums and started to wear an attire of white cotton sari lined with blue stripes along its edge, which later will became the uniform for the nuns at Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. She started to visit families living in slums, nursing those weak with hunger and begin to gather the unschooled children from the slums to teach them. As the word was spreading about Mother Teresa’s good works, the numbers of donations and volunteers wanting to help started to grow and very soon she expanded her work for “the unwanted, the unloved and the uncared for”.
In 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from Vatican to establish the Mission of Charity in Calcutta – a congregation dedicated to caring for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone”. In the years to come, the Missionaries of Charity expanded both in their reach across the globe and in their number of members. Mother Teresa opened houses firstly in other parts of India and from 1965 Missionaries of Charity started to be present in countries from the other continents. By 1997, the congregation had nearly 4,000 members and was established in almost 600 foundations in 123 countries of the world.
Mother Teresa's devotional work among the poor and dying was noticed and she received numerous awards during her life. The biggest award came in 1979 when she won the Nobel Prize for Peace.
After several years of deteriorating health, Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997 in Calcutta, at the age of 87. The government of India honored her with a state funeral, and today her tomb remains a place of pilgrimage and prayer for thousands of visitors. In October 2003, Pope John Paul II beatified Mother Teresa, bestowing on her the title of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and on September 4, 2016 in a ceremony at St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis declared her a saint, yet noted, "With great spontaneity, I think we will continue to call her Mother Teresa."
Mother Teresa and Skopje
Mother Teresa never forget the place of her childhood and she always identified herself with her hometown.
The desire of Skopje to pay respect to Mother Teresa was accomplished with the opening of the Memorial house of Mother Teresa in 2009, on the same location where the old Catholic Church “Sacred heart of Jesus” used to stand, the church where she was baptized and where she received her first communion.
Also on Macedonia Square there is a Memorial plaque of Mother Teresa's birth house and it reads: "On this place was the house where Gonxhe Bojaxhiu - Mother Teresa - born on 26 August 1910". Her message to the world is also inscribed: "The world is not hungry for bread, but for love."
Mother Teresa visited Skopje four times after she left the town in 1928. The first time was on June 10, 1970. During the visit, Mother Teresa walked around the center of Skopje and she was interested in rebuilding of the city after the earthquake of 1963. She meets relatives and friends from childhood, discuss the need for assistance for her city and announces the establishment of its order in her native Skopje.
27 and 28 June, 1980 - Mother Teresa again was a guest in her hometown, who declared her an honorary citizen of Skopje. She is glad of the development of Skopje and she visited the place in the city center where she was born, meeting with few of her own living relatives. She visited the home for children without parents "11 October", attends a solemn Mass in her honor in the Catholic Church of Skopje and has made several meetings with senior officials of the country, as well as meetings with the Bishop of the Catholic Church and the Archbishop of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. At all places she presents her four sisters who establish its order in Skopje.
March 27, 1987 - Mother Teresa is for the third time in Skopje. Fellow citizens and admirers from around the country and the region are welcoming her at the airport. Asked how she felt in Skopje, she responds with a gentle smile: "As home. These visits makes me especially happy because although around me everything is new, thoughts are bringing me back to my childhood and youth that I spent here with my mother Drona, my brother Lazar who left Skopje before me and sister Aga, who was very attached to my mother and parting with them took from Skopje to Zagreb, from where in 1928 I left for India".
September 19, 1986 - Nobel laureate Mother Teresa from Rome comes to Skopje on one-day visit. She had meetings and discussions with Bishop Horbut and with the leadership of Skopje. Also she visited the sisters of her order and the new Catholic cathedral. Then for more successful work of their order, for the four sisters who work in the city she bought a house in Kisela Voda district.
The works of love that are kind of recognition and identification of Mother Teresa, she created and left humanity's enduring message that is written on the plaque at the Macedonia Square in Skopje, where it was her parents' house to recall: “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” And in 1980 when as a Nobel Prize winner was declared an honorary citizen of Skopje, and walking through the neighborhood where she spent her childhood, Mother Teresa to herself and for eternity noted: “If this concrete was not here, maybe I would find a pebble from my street. God brought me here where I was born. Well, Skopje mine, my youth, my city! I'm again here. So, naturally, I'm Skopjanka (citizen of Skopje)”.