Mumbai (AsiaNews) -, Sister Nirmala Joshi, the first to lead the Missionaries of Charity after Mother Teresa, died last night in Calcutta. She was 81 years old. She had suffered from heart problems for the past few years. After a kidney failure, on Friday, June 19 the doctors wanted to hospitalize her to undergo dialysis. The nun, however, preferred to stay with her sisters: After a Mass celebrated by a Jesuit priest in the hospital, she was discharged. Her funeral is scheduled for 4pm (local time) tomorrow.
Today her body will be laid in the Church of St. John, before being transferred this evening to the Missionaries’ home in Tengra, a Calcutta suburb. Tomorrow the remains will be taken to the headquarters of the Congregation, where the funeral will take place.
Sister Nirmala was born in 1934 in Ranchi, capital of Jharkanda, which at the time, was a part of the province of Bihar and Orissa under the British Empire. His parents were from Nepal and her father was a British army officer, until India’s independence in 1947. Although her parents were Hindus, Nirmala was educated by Christian missionaries in Patna, capital of Bihar state.
It was then that she first met Mother Teresa and expressed her desire to share in her work. She soon became a Catholic and joined the Missionaries of Charity.
A graduate in political science and after a period spent as a lawyer, she became one of the first sisters of the congregation to lead a foreign mission, when she was sent to Panama.
In 1976, Sister Nirmala started the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity, of which she remained in charge until her election as successor to Mother Teresa in 1997, six months after the death of the founder.
Very shy and lover of the contemplative life, Sister Nirmala gave AsiaNews two exclusive interviews: the first on the occasion of the Synod on the Eucharist, the second on the occasion of the 10 anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa, chosen by AsiaNews as our patron.
January 26, 2009 (Republic Day, ed) the Indian government awarded her the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of the country, for services rendered to the country.
Her term as superior general of the Missionaries of Charity ended March 25, 2009: she was succeeded by German Sister Mary Prema Pierick, who is still at the head of the congregation of Mother Teresa. (NC)