The Padma Vibhushan, a medal with a lotus (padma) and an ornate edge (Vibhushan), is India’s second highest civilian honour. For the Missionaries of Charity it represents the highest award they ever received for their work in the country.
“In his message for World Peace Day, Benedict XVI said that the poor are the world’s wealth. We Missionaries of Charity are the recipients of the grace that comes from being at their service,” said Sister Nirmala (pictured here with the Blessed Teresa of Kolkata)
Head of the Missionaries of Charity since she was selected by Mother Teresa in 1996 to succeed her, the sister said that “this honour is for all of us—brothers, fathers, sisters, lay volunteers and co-workers—who seek to serve the poor and the needy, through this work we become tools of peace and love.”
“The award is a sign that the government of India is resolved to protect and defend the constitutional rights of every citizen, a desire that is reiterated this year in which we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Republic,” she said.
Lastly Sister Nirmala expressed her gratitude to “everyone in the world for their co-operation and assistance” to the Missionaries of Charity. It shows that “working for the poor” is a privileged way to “build a civilisation based on love.”
Among the many messages she received, one came from Sister Suma, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity in Orissa, scene in the last few months of an anti-Christian pogrom.
“Sister Nirmala has been a messenger of peace in Orissa, especially Kandhamal,” Sister Suma said. “Her presence and intercession with the local government have guaranteed assistance to the needy and have been a source of consolation and hope.”