Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Karen. Karen Wonders, “Who is Mother Teresa?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Karen!

Many of our Wonder Friends have learned about helping others. You might already know what it means to be a volunteer. Maybe you’ve even read about groups like the Peace Corps. Today’s Wonder of the Day is all about a person who tried to make life better for others. She was a nun, a teacher, and a missionary. Who are we talking about? Mother Teresa, of course!

Who was Mother Teresa? She was born on August 26, 1910, as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. Growing up in Yugoslavia (now Macedonia), she practiced Catholicism. Her mother taught her to always help others. This would inspire much of the work Mother Teresa did as an adult.

At age 12, Mother Teresa (then Agnes) felt she had a calling. She believed she was meant for religious life. Six years later, she moved to Ireland. There, she became a nun with the Sisters of Loreto. She took the name Sister Mary Teresa. 

In 1931, Sister Mary Teresa was sent to Kolkata and became a teacher. In 1937, she took her final vows and became known as Mother Teresa. She taught for a total of 17 years. She even became the principal of her school. In 1948, though, Mother Teresa left the school to pursue her second calling. She believed she was meant to help people living with extreme poverty and illness. 

Mother Teresa started an open-air school for children living in Kolkata. She would go on to found more schools and a hospice in the city. People from all over the world heard about her work. Some came to Kolkata to help. In 1950, Mother Teresa founded her own order—The Missionaries of Charity.

The Missionaries of Charity spread all over the world. It sought to help those living in poverty.  The order set up orphanages, nursing homes, and health clinics. Mother Teresa also opened a colony for people with leprosy in the 1960s. She later opened Gift of Love in New York City. It offered care to those living with HIV/AIDS.

Mother Teresa received a great deal of attention for her work. In 1965, Pope Paul VI gave the Missionaries of Charity a decree of praise. Mother Teresa was also named the Jewel of India. She was given the Gold Medal of the Soviet Peace Committee. In 1979, she received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Of course, Mother Teresa’s life wasn’t without problems. There have been reports of poor hygiene and health care in the centers she opened. Later in life, she also used her public platform to speak against divorce, birth control, and abortion. Some people didn’t like that she supported policies they saw as harmful. The Order of the Missionaries of Charity has also faced investigation. It has been accused of funding fraud and other illegal practices. 

In 1997, Mother Teresa passed away after a long period of ill health. In 2016, she became a Catholic saint. In Catholicism, saints are holy people believed to be in Heaven. On Earth, they lived meaningful lives that others look to as examples. The Catholic faith believes people can ask saints to pray for them. Each saint has a feast day, and St. Mother Teresa’s is September 5.

How would you describe Mother Teresa’s legacy? Do you enjoy helping others? Doing a good deed for just one person can make a big difference in the world. Spend some time today thinking about how you can make the world a better place.

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.4

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