Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (1910–1997), was an Albanian-born Indian Roman Catholic nun:
By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.
In 1950 Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, which in 2012 consisted of over 4,500 sisters. Members of the order must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and the fourth vow, to give ‘Wholehearted and Free service to the poorest of the poor’. The Missionaries of Charity at the time of her death had some missions in more than a hundred countries, including hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, children’s and family counselling programmes, orphanages and schools.
For over forty-five years, she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity’s expansion, first throughout India and then in other countries. In late 2003, she was beatified, the third step toward possible sainthood. A second miracle credited to Mother Teresa is required before she can be recognized as a saint by the Catholic church.
She was the recipient of numerous honours including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She refused the conventional ceremonial banquet given to laureates, and asked that the $192,000 funds be given to the poor in India. Her awards include the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize, the Philippines-based Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Pacem in Terris Award, an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia, the Order of Merit from both the United Kingdom and the United States, Albania’s Golden Honour of the Nation, honorary degrees, the Balzan Prize, and the Albert Schweitzer International Prize amongst many others.
But towards the end of her life Mother Teresa attracted some negative attention in the Western media. Christopher Hitchens, perhaps her most outspoken critic called her ‘a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud’. Other criticisms related to her not only accepting donations from the Duvalier family in Haiti but praising them; money allegedly being used for missionary work instead of improving the conditions in her hospices; and discouraging sisters from seeking medical training. Whatever, her portrayal in movies to-date has been hagiographic.