Sister Nirmala – who had succeeded Mother Teresa as the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity in 1997 and served for 12 years in that post – passed away around mid night last night.
“She breathed her last peacefully. She was a great soul,” said Archibishop of Kolkata Father Thomas D’Souza.
Talking to the Indian Express, the Archbishop said that Sister Nirmala was suffering from some heart ailment and staying at a Missionaries of Charity home near St John’s Church, Sealdah. She was admitted to hospital some time back but again brought back to the MoC home, said the Archbishop.
“When I saw her about 15 days ago, she was unconscious and struggling. But in the past two days she had regained consciousness and talked about the work to be done for the MoC. She was such a great soul. She will never talk about her illness,” said the Archbishop of Kolkata.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was one of the first to tweet the sad news. She posted, “Saddened at the passing away of Sister Nirmala who headed the Missionaries of Charity after Mother Teresa. Kolkata and the world will miss her.”
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Sister Nirmala who was born in Ranchi had her early education in Patna and she joined the order of the MoC in 1976.
Her original name was Nirmala Joshi. She was inspired by the work of Mother Teresa and dedicated herself fully to the service of the poor.
She was one of the first nuns to be sent on a foreign mission by Mother Teresa when she visited Panama in connection with the Missionaries of Charity work.
Her term as the Superior General of the MoC ended in 2009 when the German born Sister Prema took over as the SG. But though Sister Nirmala succeeded Mother Teresa as the Superior General, the title “Mother” was not conferred on anyone of the order after Mother Teresa.
The funeral of Sister Nirmala would be held at the Mother House on AJC Bose Road, said the Archbishop and she will be buried at the St John’s cemetery where many of the eminent nuns are resting, said Thomas D’Souza.
A pall of gloom descended at the Mother House on AJC Bose Road, the headquarters of the MoC, where mourners began to turn up soon after the news spread. There are about 4,500 nuns attached to the order at the moment and most of them working in Indian cities and towns. The order has its centres spread over 150 countries of the world.
Sister Nirmala in recent times had been in the “contemplative wing” of the MoC – which meant that she was mostly in prayers and connected to the world outside through her prayers. The active wing of the MoC are the houses where the dying and the destitute are sheltered – like Kalighat, Shanti Dan and Prem Dan etc.
Sister Nirmala’s life was devoted to service, caring for the poor and underprivileged. Saddened by her demise. May her soul rest in peace.
— Narendra Modi, Prime Minister
Heartfelt condolences on passing away of Sister Nirmala. Hers was an inspiring life dedicated to service of the poor.
— Pranab Mukherjee, President
Kolkata and the world will miss her… She was soft spoken and a nice lady.
— Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister
A worthy successor of Mother Teresa, Sister Nirmala will be deeply missed by the millions whose lives she touched in the service of humanity.
— Sonia Gandhi, Congress President
Sister Nirmala carried forward Mother Teresa’s work with quiet dedication and dignity.
— Rahul Gandhi, Congress Vice-President
She spent her entire life serving the poor. Her death has left everyone grief-stricken.
— Raghubar Das, Jharkhand Chief Minister