KOLKATA:Sister Nirmala, who had succeeded Mother Teresa as head of the Missionaries of Charity, died on Tuesday here aged 81.
“She was originally from Nepal and succeeded Mother Teresa as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity in March, 1997 and worked till 2009. She had stepped down due to poor health. She breathed her last at 12.15 am,” said Father Moloy D’Costa of St John’s Church at Sealdah, where her body was kept till 6 pm for thousands of people to pay their last respects.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Congress deputy chief Rahul Gandhi also mourned her death.
The Prime Minister tweeted: “Sister Nirmala’s life was devoted to service, caring for the poor and underprivileged. Saddened by her demise. May her soul rest in peace.”
After paying her last respects at the church, Mamata said, “I had very good relations with Mother Teresa and later with Sister Nirmala who always had a smile on her face. She dedicated her life for the service of the poor and downtrodden all over the world. Her demise is a great loss to the country and the world.”
Born Nirmala Joshi in Ranchi in 1934, she was impressed by Mother Teresa even as a student and converted to Christianity. A master’s in political science, she went on to become one of the two nuns with whom the Macedonia-born Nobel Laureate of Albanian descent founded the Missionaries of Charity.
Sister Nirmala was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan in 2009.
Though she succeeded Mother Teresa at the Missionaries of Charity, Nirmala refused to assume the title of “Mother” and chose to remain Sister Nirmala. She was succeeded by Sister Mary Prema.
During her tenure as Superior General, she expanded the organisation to 134 countries and opened new centres in Israel, Afghanistan and Thailand.
On Wednesday morning, her body will be taken to ‘Mother House’ where a requiem mass will be held at 4 pm. Among others, Pope Francis’ representatives from the Vatican will attend the mass.
As per her wish, Sister Nirmala will be buried at the cemetery adjacent to the St John’s Church.