Mother Teresa, born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Macedonia in 1910, founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, in 1950, and worked for the poor and unborn until she died September 5, 1997. She awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and she was beatified in the Catholic Church in 2003. She will be canonized on Sept. 4, the day before the 19th anniversary of her passing.
The Missionaries of Charity had 4,500 sister in 133 countries as of 2012, and they run hospices and health clinics serving people with AIDS/HIV, tuberculosis, and leprosy (among other diseases), schools, and orphanages.
While not without critics such as Christopher Hitchens who claimed she forcibly converted Hindus to Catholicism, Mother Teresa’s work for the poor earned her plaudits from all sides of the political spectrum and audiences with world leaders. She would often use her platform to defend all human life, especially the unborn. At the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington and an audience of 3000 that included then president Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton, Mother Teresa called abortion “the greatest destroyer of peace today” and called for an end to the practice. She asked, “if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”
The following year Mother Teresa published a letter to coincide with the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, defending motherhood and condemning abortion. “That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother,” she wrote. “Motherhood is the gift of God to women … Yet we can destroy this gift of motherhood, especially by the evil of abortion, but also by thinking that other things like jobs or positions are more important than loving, than giving oneself to others.” She added, “anything that destroys God’s gift of motherhood destroys His most precious gift to women– the ability to love as a woman.”
During her 1988 visit to Canada, organized by a coalition of Quebec evangelical groups with the assistance of Camapign Life Coalition, Mother Teresa visited Ottawa, during which she stopped to see Frank Mountain, a Campaign Life Coalition volunteer, in his hospital room. Mountain had been in a car accident in June on the way to a pro-life picket. He had been in the hospital for three months with a broken neck when Mother Teresa surprised him on Sept. 16. Mother Teresa usually did not visit hospitals but made an exception for Mountain, as The Interim reported at the time, “because of his unwavering dedication to saving the lives of the unborn.” She also visited the offices of Campaign Life Coalition in the nation’s capital. Jim Hughes, national president of CLC, recalls she was impressed that the organization did not waste money on fancy offices, but rather served the unborn in humility. She said, “I can rest here; you have not wasted money on creature comforts.”
At the rally on Parliament Hill that featured CLC’s Hughes and evangelical minister Ken Campbell amongst other speakers, Mother Teresa said “the beautiful thing about the pro-life movement is ordinary people doing extraordinary things for God.”
In 2014, Sara denBok published a short 22-page memoir, Saved – By Mother Teresa (LifeCycle Books). It related the story of being a nameless orphan rescued from the streets of Calcutta by a police officer who brought her to Mother Teresa’s orphanage (Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, the Home of the Little Children orphanage) because no child was ever turned away. She was nursed back to health and two years later she was adopted by a Canadian family. Years later she would return to India to visit the woman who saved her. denBok recalls of her four-foot, ten-inch avior, “It was hard to believe that this tiny woman was universally recognized as a moral and spiritual giant.”
When Mother Teresa died in 1997, The Interim editorialized, “the pro-life, pro-family community has much to celebrate in the life and work of Mother Teresa. Her longstanding commitment to an orthodox faith, her defence of the unborn, and her rejection of contraception and extra-marital sex were much-needed bulwarks against the seeping secularism of this generation.”