Sister Nirmala, age 63, is Mother Teresa’s successor as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity. Born in Ranchi in 1934 to a Brahmin soldier who came from Nepal, Nirmala Joshi joined the order at the age of 17, after converting from Hinduism. Her sister, too, embraced Christianity and became a Carmelite nun. After joining the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Nirmala studied law at the insistence of Mother Teresa, who often took her along during her tours abroad. The Mother’s confidence in her abilities was evident when she asked Sister Nirmala to open their homes in Panama, New York and Kathmandu.
She is a modest woman, and when she succeeded Mother she quietly said, “Mother Teresa can never be replaced. She is gifted with rare charisma that can never be acquired in one’s lifetime.” Sister Nirmal is not without her own strengths as well, however. As spiritual adviser Father le Joly said, “In her, Mother found signs of energy, dedication, and charisma.” When journalists once asked Mother Teresa what made Sister Nirmala so exceptional, she replied, “She is a Missionary of Charity”
Source: Accessed from the link:http://home.comcast.net/~motherteresasite/nirmala.html, on November 7th 2008
Sister Nirmala (born 1934) succeeded Mother Teresa as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity in March 1997.
She was born Nirmala Joshi into a Brahmin family in Ranchi (then in Bihar and now the capital of the Indian State of Jharkhand). Her parents were Hindu Brahmins from Nepal. Her father was devout Hindu Indian Army officer originally from Nepal.
She was educated by Christian missionaries in Patna (capital of Bihar state) but remained a Hindu until she was 24 and learned of Mother Teresa’s work and converted to Roman Catholicism.
Sister Nirmala has a master’s degree in political science from an Indian university and additional training as a lawyer. She was one of the first nuns to head a foreign mission when she went to Panama.
She later headed missions in Europe and in Washington D.C. in the United States, before being chosen to succeed Mother Teresa. She was based in Calcutta as head of the order’s Contemplative Wing, in which nuns devote their lives to meditation.
Source: Wikipedia.org, accessed on November 7, 2008
A Part of the interview taken from Rediff.com
Right wing Hindu organizations have accused your organization of being involved in conversions. How do you react to the charge?
We don’t worry about it. We must do our work to the best we can. And yes, our work must convert people’s heart. Our work shows God’s love. That love has to change the heart of people.
Change the hearts of people to see Christ?
To see God in their lives. To see human kindness. To love God. To love one another. To ask pardon for sins and become proper human beings. We, together with Mother, believe that people of whatever religion should believe and live their religion to the best of their ability. And if God wants to give a person the Christian faith, it is his choice.
Even I was a Hindu. Nobody made me a Christian. If anybody had told me to become a Christian, I would never have become one. It was the grace of God that touched my heart and I became a Christian. This conversion is only his responsibility. Nobody can make somebody — be somebody.
So can you say with absolute conviction that the MoC have never indulged in proselytisation — in conversions?
Like forcing the people?
Never. Never. We serve people of all religions, all castes. They don’t have to become Christians to get our help. No.
Do you have many people expressing their desire to convert to your faith?
Some do, not many.
What do you do when someone wants to accept your faith? Do you give them some kind of training?
We initiate them in prayer. Those who really desire, we give them books to read. The really sincere ones ask us questions.
Do you foresee trouble ahead for the MoC in an India slowly being overcome by the forces of Hindutva?
I am not looking into the future, but up till now we have faced no problems.
[Part of the interview by Sister Nirmala published in Rediff.com]
We have never forced people to convert’, Mother Theresa the legacy, taken from the website link: http://www.rediff.com/news/1998/sep/07mother.htm, accessed on November 7th 2008.
About the Conversion (as written by TIM MCGIRK in http://www.time.com) Selected writings
When Nirmala Joshi’s parents, high-caste Hindu Brahmins from Nepal, put their daughter into a Catholic missionary school in the 1940s, their intention was for the girl to pick up some English and arithmetic. For that privilege, Nirmala’s father, a devout Hindu army officer, was willing to have her participate in Christian prayer sessions and Bible study. What he hadn’t expected was that his daughter would convert to Catholicism and dedicate her life to the poor. “I was at the bus stand,” recalls Sister Nirmala, “when I first felt Jesus was alive in my heart.”
Nirmala’s conversion was neither instantaneous nor untraumatic. After her bus-stop epiphany, she wrestled with her conscience for seven years before being baptized at the age of 24. The defining experience, she told TIME, was the Partition of 1947, when colonial India was bifurcated, Hindus and Muslims slaughtered each other by the tens of thousands, and millions of refugees were left homeless and dying. “There was so much killing,” Nirmala says. “Everybody was just going mad. There was little compassion anywhere.” She headed off to Calcutta, which was then packed with refugees from East Bengal. There, two Carmelite sisters directed her to Mother Teresa, who was spending her days tending to the poor and begging for funds to buy food and medicine for her mission. “It was inspiration at first sight,” says Sister Nirmala. “Here was someone who could bring some compassion and a sense of destiny to people.”
Source: FILLING THE BIG SANDALS, The Missionaries of Charity finally settle on a successor to their ailing founder, Mother Teresa, BY TIM MCGIRK, NEW DELHI, Accessed from the link: http://www.time.com/time/reports/motherteresa/t970324.html, on November 7, 2008