A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' Catholic Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of the Church's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
For the last few decades of the 20th century, the Catholic Church was blessed to have two of its most influential leaders guiding the Church and spreading its faith and message at the same time. Pope John Paul II made history by becoming the first non-Italian pope in several centuries, guiding the church for over 25 years. But while he led the Church, a remarkable woman born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (1910-1997) became one of the Church's greatest missionaries and humanitarians. She would come to be known to the world as Mother Teresa.
It would be nearly impossible to overstate the impact Mother Teresa had on the Catholic Church and the world during her life. In addition to founding the Missionaries of Charity, a sisterhood of Roman Catholics that now operates in over 125 countries and has over 4,500 sisters, Mother Teresa spent nearly half a century spreading her religious congregation across the world, while using it to help the sick and poor. Through her direct participation and planning, she opened hundreds of missions, providing essential services that ranged from hospices to schools, and from orphanages to soup kitchens. Her work won her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and Mother Teresa was consistently ranked among the world's most admired people for the last 20 years of her life. Shortly after her death in 1997, the beatification process for Mother Teresa was begun, and in 2003 she was beatified as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcultta.