09/04/2007, 00.00
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Sister Nirmala Joshi on Mother Teresa’s living heritage

by Nirmala Carvalho
In an interview with AsiaNews, the superior of the Missionaries of Charity takes stock of what her congregation has done in the ten years since the Blessed’s death. She discusses the rejection of God in today’s world and thirst for God in Mother Teresa’s dark nights. Even the many anti-conversion laws in India cannot stop the sisters’ peaceful and loving mission.

Kolkata (AsiaNews) – In the ten years since the death of Mother Teresa, the congregation she founded continues to grow. Since September 5, 1997, when Mother “went back to the Home of God,” more than 900 people joined the Missionaries of Charity. Altogether 166 new houses were opened in this period in 14 new countries. Sister Nirmala Joshi, superior of the Missionaries of Charity who succeeded the founder at her request, confirms how much Mother Teresa’s charisma and witness are still alive today.

Sister Nirmala, 73, comes from a Hindu background, originally from the Nepali village of Putalibazar, west of Kathmandu. Brahmin by caste, her family immigrated to India in 1947. In Kolkata she became Catholic thanks to Mother Teresa’s help and was amongst the first to wear the Missionaries of Charity white sari with bleu celeste borders. She belonged to the contemplative branch of the congregation when she was called to become superior general six months after Mother Teresa’s death.

In her interview with AsiaNews Sister Nirmala talks about the lasting and still current value of Mother Teresa’s message in a world that in rejecting love rejects every human being’s dignity as well as “peace, light and joy.”

She also refutes controversial claims made more recently about Mother Teresa’s “dark nights,” her alleged “atheism,” reasserting the future saint’s “heroic” faith.

Sr Nirmala, is Mother Teresa still relevant to people today?

Mother’s life and work of love has an impact on people whatever the age. Her prayer and message about God’s love for every human being and her challenge to everyone to love one another as God loves them continue having an impact on people and nations. Mother shows everyone the simple path to Love.

Ten years since Mother Teresa’s death how is life in the congregation she founded?

In these ten years, our Society, the Missionaries of Charity, has continued to grow. We are now operating in 14 new countries and have founded 166 new houses around the world. Today we are present in 134 countries and have 757 houses.

We have now 4,823 Sisters compared to 3,842 at the time of Mother’s going home to God in 1997. New vocations keep coming.

Our life of prayer, simplicity and humble works of love in the wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor, irrespective of nationality, caste and creed continues, as does our total dependence on Diving Providence for all our needs and the needs of the poorest of the poor under our care. God’s providence has never failed. Through us the rich and the poor all over the world continue sharing their gifts of love with the poor. Many young people from all over the world keep on coming and sharing personally in our humble works of love, as volunteers.

Mother’s tomb draws people from all over the world from all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old, educated or not, sick and healthy, of all cultures, religions and no religion. They come to pay homage to Mother, receive her blessing, pray for their needs and show their gratitude for all that Mother has done for them.

In today’s world people seem to be losing the sense of the sacred and of God . . .

If we lose the sense of the sacred and the sense of God, we also lose the sense of our very humanity and become something we are not created to become.

Sacredness is attached to our very nature as human beings, as we are created by God our Father, in His own image to become holy as He is holy and destined for eternal life of love, peace, light and joy.

God is the source of our life, love, light, peace and happiness. Without God we are nothing, we know nothing and we have nothing: No love, no Light, no peace, no joy.

In India today fundamentalism is growing and freedom of religion is being curtailed through various anti-conversion laws. How can one continue working and evangelising under such circumstances?

Freedom of religion is one of the fundamental rights of every human being. Article 25 of the Constitution of India clearly states that “Subject to public order, morality and health and the other provisions of this part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate [their] religion.”

We bring the goodness of God’s love for every person through our prayer and humble works. Our small acts of love show our suffering brothers and sisters God’s tender love for them and they repent of their wrongdoings and forgive those who have done wrong to them and return to the Heart of God and receive His peace.

This way of evangelisation is accepted everywhere, by all peoples, at all times.

How are you and your sisters getting ready for the canonisation of Mother Teresa?

Through our prayers and trying to live our life and do our work as Missionaries of Charity faithfully, wholeheartedly and with joy.

In Mother Teresa: Come Be my Light, Mother Teresa is shown as facing a deep crisis of faith in God in the last 40 years of her life. The book reveals that the Blessed Mother had to struggle fiercely with her faith whilst appearing cheerful outwardly. She compared her problems to hell and admitted that she had begun to doubt the existence of heaven and God.

The new book shows Mother as a woman of heroic faith, full of hope and love who, in spite of her feelings of the apparent absence of God and rejection by Him, continued believing in a loving God; thirsting for Him all the more; trusting Him with unshakable confidence and surrendering herself to His will totally with joy, no matter what it cost her.

You know that AsiaNews has chosen Mother Teresa as its patron. Can you send a message to all our readers?

God loves each one of us, just as we are, with a most tender and unconditional love. Let us love one another, especially our poorest and neediest brothers and sisters just as God loves us.

God bless you.

Photo: Our correspondent with Sr Nirmala Joshi.

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