Mother Teresa, who is being canonized by the Roman Catholic Church today, is one of the most well-known Catholic figures in modern times, but what is often forgotten is that she began her life as a nun in Dublin and always held Ireland close to her heart.
Born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, now the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, she left home at the age of 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish order. She served two months as a novice at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham to learn English, with a view to becoming a missionary.
In 1950, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, which began in Calcutta with 12 members. The order now consists of over 4,500 religious sisters and is active in 133 countries.
Mother Teresa died September 5, 1997, and in 2003, she was beatified as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.” In December 2015, Pope Francis credited her with a second miracle, paving the way for her to be recognized as a saint.
Mother Teresa had a deep affinity for Ireland says Dr John Scally, an Ecclesiastical History professor at Trinity College.
Writing for the The Irish Times, Dr Scally recalls his 1992 interview with the “frail Albanian woman” with “incredible energy.”
He writes: “Her ties with Ireland remained strong. She returned many times and was given the Freedom of Dublin in 1993. At the height of the ‘Troubles’ in 1971 she sent a group of her sisters armed just with bedrolls and a violin to Belfast to help ‘in whatever little way’ they could.
“Even after her death her Irish connections remain as her sisters continue work in each of the four provinces: in Dublin, Blarney, Sligo and Armagh.
“My final question to Mother Teresa was whether Ireland held a unique place in her affections. With a shy smile and almost a whisper she answered: ‘By blood and origin I am all Albanian. My citizenship is Indian. I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the whole world – and to Jesus. The people of the world are my people but I will always have a special place in my heart for Ireland.’”
Pope Francis will officially recognize Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Kolkata) as a saint at a ceremony in St Peter’s Square on Sunday.