Mother House in Kolkata wore a deserted look on Tuesday with a notice hanging outside: “Sr Nirmala went home to God last night at 12.05 am. You may pay your last respect at St John’s Church Sealdah on 23rd June. Funeral Mass on 24th, 4 pm. – Mother House”.
Sister Nirmala, who had succeeded Mother Teresa as the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity in 1997 and headed the charity organisation for the next 12 years, passed away in Kolkata on Monday night. She was 81.
St John’s Church in the city was cordoned off by police till the arrival of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the afternoon. She spent around half-an-hour at the church, paying her last respects.
Mamata was accompanied by Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Commissioner of Police Surajit Kar Purkayastha. Also present at the church was singer Usha Uthup.
On her way out, Mamata said Sister Nirmala’s death was not only a loss for the Mother House but for the whole country and the world. “I have worked with Mother Teresa during the riots in 1992 and later, I had known Sister Nirmala as well. She was soft spoken and a nice lady. Through her death, she has been reborn… They have always worked for the poor and downtrodden, especially in Kolkata. It is a personal loss for me as well,” she said.
On Wednesday, the body will be taken to Mother House at 9 am. Later at 4 pm, the funeral service will be held.
Superior General of Missionaries of Charity, Sister Prema, said Sister Nirmala passed away with sisters around her praying and singing.
“She has given us the spirit of Mother Teresa and continued her work in a very beautiful, peaceful and united way.
She was very important for us sisters as she guided us in our service to the poorest of the poor and also in our prayer to deepen our relationship with God,” she added.
Sister Nirmala had suffered her first heart attack on April 7. Though she recovered, her health deteriorated later and she had to be admitted to CMRI.
Sister Nirmala’s brother Surendra Prasad Joshi, who had come from Kathmandu in Nepal, said while doing her MA from Patna Women’s College, she had met Mother Teresa and was inspired to lead a life like hers.
“She wanted to surrender to God and sacrifice her life for the well being of the society. After Mother Teresa, she was supposed to be the Mother Superior General but she said there was only one Mother Teresa and she would like to be known as Sister Nirmala,” he added.
Uthup, who paid tribute to Sister Nirmala through songs, said: “When Mother Teresa was being beatified in Rome, I was there. At that time, Sister Nirmala told me to adopt the principle of moving on in life, which had helped me a lot… It made me a positive and optimistic person.”