"Little acts of love have the power to touch the most hardened hearts and generate love in return. We have been able to remain faithful so far to the vision of our Mother,” Sister Nirmala said.
The number of Missionaries of Charity homes had gone up steadily from 594 in 1997 to 766, while the number of nuns has increased from over 4,000 at the time of Mother Teresa’s death to 5,001 by the end of 2009. The congregation now has 768 houses with 5160 nuns.
Even after she declined a third term, Sister Nirmala remained active in the service of the congregation amid her life of prayer in the contemplative branch. She completed writing a formation program before a kidney ailment worsened after Easter, Sister Nicole said.
"Sister Nirmala expressed a desire to return home from hospital. On June 19, her condition turned worse and she slipped into a coma on the 21st. She went home to Jesus at 12.05 am (June 23)," Sister Nicole said.
The funeral service, presided over by Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi, was preceded by an unprecedented "civic homage" at the motherhouse chapel with the body of Sister Nirmala in the middle.
"Sister Nirmala’s death is a loss not only for Kolkata but for the whole world," said Mamata Bannerji, a Hindu and chief minister of West Bengal state, where Kolkata is the capital. "We have lost a loving and compassionate mother. She always cared for the poor people. Physically, we have lost her, but she will be with us. Sister Nirmala cannot die."
Bannerji stayed for the three hour funeral and stood in silence when the coffin was taken from the motherhouse in a flower-decked hearse. Burial was at the cemetery of St. John’s church, a mile away, where Sister Nirmala had been baptized almost 60 years earlier.
Bannerji was not alone among government officials extoling the nun’s virtues. Soon after the Missionaries of Charity announced the death of Mother Teresa’s successor, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media.
"Sister Nirmala’s life was devoted to service, caring for the poor & underprivileged. Saddened by her demise. May her soul rest in peace," the Hindu prime minister tweeted.
is based in New Delhi, India.