Mother TeresaPER devoted to world 's poor . CALCUTTALOC 1996-08-22 Mother TeresaPER , known as the Saint of the GuttersPER , won the Nobel Peace PrizeMISC in 1979 for bringing hope and dignity to millions of poor , unwanted people with her simple message : " The poor must know that we love them . " While the world heaps honours on her and even regards her as a living saint , the nun of AlbanianMISC descent maintains she is merely doing GodPER 's work . " It gives me great joy and fulfilment to love and care for the poor and neglected , " she said . " The poor do not need our sympathy and pity . They need our love and compassion . " The diminutive Roman CatholicMISC missionary was on respiratory support in intensive care in an IndianMISC nursing home on Thursday after suffering heart failure . But an attending doctor said Mother TeresaPER , who turns 86 next Tuesday , was conscious and in stable condition . The task Mother TeresaPER began alone in 1949 in the slums of densely-populated CalcuttaLOC , and grew to touch the hearts of people around the world . When in 1979 she was told she had won the Nobel Peace PrizeMISC , she said characteristically : " I am unworthy . " The world disagreed , showering more than 80 national and international honours on her including the Bharat RatnaMISC , or Jewel of IndiaMISC , the country 's highest civilian award . Her health began to deteriorate in 1989 when she was fitted with a heart pacemaker . A year later , the VaticanLOC announced she was stepping down as Superior of her Missionaries of CharityORG order . More than 100 delegates flew in from around the world to elect a successor . They could not agree , so asked her to stay on . She agreed . In 1991 , Mother TeresaPER was treated at a CaliforniaLOC hospital for heart disease and bacterial pneumonia . In 1993 , she fell in RomeLOC and broke three ribs . In August the same year , while in New DelhiLOC to receive yet another award , she developed malaria , complicated by her heart and lung problems . Last April she fractured her left collar bone . But her increasing frailty , arthritis and failing eyesight has not stopped her travels around the world to mingle with the poor and desperate . Mother TeresaPER was born Agnes Goinxha BejaxhiuPER to AlbanianMISC parents in SkopjeLOC , in what was then SerbiaLOC , on August 27 , 1910 . She attended a government school and was already deeply religious by the time she was 12 . At the age of 18 she became a LorettoMISC nun , hoping to work at the Order 's CalcuttaLOC mission . She was sent to Loretto AbbeyLOC in DublinLOC and from there to IndiaLOC to begin her novitiate and teach geography at a convent school in CalcuttaLOC . She said her divine call to work among the poor came in September , 1946 . " The message was quite clear , " she told one interviewer . " I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them . It was an order . I knew where I belonged . " The VaticanLOC and the mother superior in DublinLOC approved and after intensive training as a nurse with AmericanMISC missionaries she opened her first CalcuttaLOC slum school in December 1949 . She took the name of TeresaPER , after FranceLOC 's Saint TheresePER of the Child JesusPER . In IndiaLOC she was simply called MotherPER . Mother TeresaPER set up her first home for the dying in a HinduMISC rest house in CalcuttaLOC after she saw a penniless woman turned away by a city hospital . Named " Nirmal HridayLOC " ( Tender HeartLOC ) , it was the first of a chain of 150 homes for dying , destitute people , admitting nearly 18,000 a year . Her Missionaries of CharityORG , a Roman CatholicMISC religious order she founded in 1949 , now runs about 300 homes for unwanted children and the destitute in IndiaLOC and abroad . In 1994 a BritishMISC television documentary called the myth around Mother TeresaPER a mixture of " hyperbole and credulity " . CatholicsMISC around the world rose to her defence .