Sister Nirmala passes away at 81

Last Updated 23 June 2015, 20:27 IST

Mother Teresa’s successor and former superior general of the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) Sister Nirmala passed away here on Wednesday after a brief illness.

MoC officials said the 81-year-old nun was suffering from various ailments for the last few days and her health was deteriorating.

Born to Hindu Nepalese parents in 1934 as Nirmala Joshi in Ranchi, Sister Nirmala was educated by Christian missionaries in Patna and later converted to Roman Catholicism after she learned of Mother Teresa’s work and wanted to join her organisation. Her father was an officer in the British Indian Army. 

While Sister Nirmala earned a Master’s degree in political science and received additional training in law, she dedicated her life to humanitarian work with MoC and was one of the first nuns from the organisation to head a foreign mission when she went to Panama in the 1970s. 

In 1976, she started the MoC’s meditation branch and remained its head until 1997, when she was elected to succeed Mother Teresa as superior general.

Sister Nirmala served as the superior general from 1997 to 2009, when she was succeeded by its current head, Sister Prema.  She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the nation’s second highest civilian award, in 2009.

MoC officials said the body will be kept in state at Mother House, the MoC headquarters in central Kolkata, on Thursday for people to pay their respects. The funeral will take place at 4 pm.

Archbishop of Kolkata, Thomas D’Souza, told reporters that Sister Nirmala “passed away peacefully, surrounded by sisters praying for her”.  “She had been suffering from a heart disease for quite some time, but she never lost her smile and was always cheerful,” he added. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Sister Nirmala’s life was devoted to service, caring for the poor & underprivileged. Saddened by her demise. May her soul rest in peace.” 

Condoling the demise, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted: “Saddened at the passing of Sister Nirmala, who headed Missionaries of Charity after Mother Teresa. Kolkata and the world will miss her.” 

(Published 23 June 2015, 20:27 IST)

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