Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in 1910 to Albanian parents living in Macedonia. When she was 18 she left home to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Loretto, who were very active in India. She chose the name of Sister Teresa in memory of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She was then sent to Calcutta, India, to study to become a teacher. In 1937 Sister Teresa made her final vows and was named principal of a high school for middle-class girls in the center of Calcutta.
Close to the school was one of the great slums of Calcutta, and Sister Teresa began to wonder about who cared for the poor living in the streets. She began to feel a calling to leave the convent to help the poorest of the poor and to live with them. In 1948 she received permission to leave the Loretto community, and at age 38 she left the convent for the first time in 18 years without her religious habit. She was completely alone, with no house, no savings, and no work. She did not know what she would eat and where she would sleep. She found herself in that same terrible condition of those who have nothing—those whom she wanted to serve.
Teresa began to go into the slums and the streets to talk with the poor and to help them. Within two years she had gathered 12 women together and founded her own order, the Society of the Missionaries of Charity. In 1952 Mother Teresa opened a Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta. In 1957 the Missionaries of Charity started their work with lepers and the poor in many disaster areas of the world.
For many years the work of Mother Teresa and her sisters continued quietly in Calcutta, until Pope Paul VI visited India and called attention to her work. Suddenly the world became aware of this remarkable woman who served the poorest of the poor. In 1971 Mother Teresa was awarded the