United NationsMother Teresa of Calcutta: Servant of the Poor, Saint of the Gutters

Leaving No One Behind

Mother Teresa’s Enduring Message for the International Community Today

On 4 September 2016 in Rome, Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa a saint. In celebration of this event, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, together with ADF International, hosted an exhibition dedicated to her words, witness, and works at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The week-long exhibition culminated with a conference, featuring an international array of speakers, including some of those closest to her. They focused on aspects of her life and work, such as caring for the poorest of the poor, advocating for peace, and leaving no one behind. 

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"The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference toward one’s neighbor who lives at the roadside, assaulted by exploitation, corruption, poverty, and disease."

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty."

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

"We don’t need bombs and guns to destroy or to bring peace. Just get together, love one another, bring that peace, that joy, that strength of presence of each other in the home. And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world."

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

"I never forget, one day I was walking down the streets of London, and there I saw a man. He looked the most rejected man that I have ever seen. So I went right near him and I took and shook his hand. He said, “Oh, after so long a time, I feel the warmth of a human hand.” And his face was quite different. There was joy, there was sunshine in his eyes. I can’t tell you the change that came on that man’s life just with that simple shaking of the hand."

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta
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About Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia in 1910, felt her calling to religious life at the age of 12. At 18 years old, she travelled to Dublin, Ireland, to join the Sisters of Loreto and was given the name Sister Mary Teresa.

In 1929 Sister Mary Teresa was sent to Darjeeling, India, for religious training and soon started teaching at Saint Mary’s High School for Girls in Calcutta where she spent 19 years educating girls from the city’s poorest Bengali families. But in 1946 on a train from Calcutta to the Himalaya region, she experienced a ‘call within a call’ to devote her life to the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. A year later she left the school to begin caring for the ‘unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for.’

In 1950 Mother Teresa’s order the Missionaries of Charity received official recognition form the Catholic Church. By the time of her death in 1997 the order numbered more than 4,000 sisters with 600 foundations in 123 countries. In 1979 Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1985 spoke at the United Nations of the 40th Anniversary of the General Assembly, where Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar stressed her importance for the United Nations and the international community as he called her ‘most powerful woman in the world’ and added, ‘She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world.’ On 4 September 2016, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was declared a saint by the Catholic Church.