Ahmedabad: Dear Sr Nirmala,
A few hours ago you said ‘good-bye’ to this world and you have now entered that place of eternal happiness which was destined for you. Ever since I was told last morning that your end was near and this morning that you were no more, my heart and my soul have been flooded with many memories of you and for every flashback, I can only say ‘thank you, dear Sr. Nirmala’.
I vividly remember those days you spent in Ahmedabad in 1998, your first visit here as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity. When you took over from Mother Teresa in March 1997, we really did not know who this “Sr. Nirmala” was, who stepped into the sandals of our beloved Mother. But during your visit to Ahmedabad, you not only demonstrated that you were a great soul but that you clearly manifested that you were a fitting successor to Mother.
During your visit here, you charmed everyone whom you encountered: the poor and the powerful, the literate and illiterate, people from all walks of life and of diverse religious beliefs. At the inter-religious prayer meeting we organised, you truly spoke from your heart telling those present very categorically that true religion is in the ability to unite and to love one another. Your down-to-earth simplicity, your trade-mark humility and your gentle manner meant a lot to us here.
In the wake of the attacks on the Christians in Orissa in 2008, I met you in Kolkata to see how we could address the reality in a more concerted manner. You had just returned from there and were convinced that “all would be well”. I did not agree with you and even blurted out “Sr. Nirmala, please do not allow your goodness to cloud you from the reality”. I still remember how you did not respond but touched me gently and said, “Fr. Cedric, let us pray together for some time”. I immediately felt a whole wave of calm and peace descend upon me. I remember thanking you profusely for that special grace.
In September 2014, when I was with Sr. Prema and the General team, you asked to see me. The Sisters who were present at our meeting had already warned me that your health was frail. On September 24th when I landed at St. John’s to celebrate the Eucharist specially for you, I was told you were rather ill; I would have to celebrate the Eucharist not in the Chapel but in the dormitory above so that you could be there for my Mass. I was also told that you wanted to receive the Sacrament of Healing.
It was again a very special moment of grace to have celebrated the Eucharist with you and then to anoint you. In fact, I felt invigorated after that celebration. It was surely a miracle that after the anointing the Sister Nirmala who was dying was up – and – about asking me a million questions in a most caring and loving way. It was as though you were keeping track of me, of all the happenings – the ups-and-downs in my life – during these past years. What touched me most was that you told me “I often pray to Jesus for you – to keep you safe”. It is a gift that I will always cherish.
No, Sister Nirmala, I am not saying ‘good-bye’ to you; because I truly believe that you are a Saint today guiding and directing me and many more in this journey of life. On this earth, you radiated contemplation, compassion and commitment in a profound yet humble manner; your loving, disarming smile touched my heart and millions all over. Continue to be with us today and always! – I pray to you…
Thank you Sr. Nirmala for being Sr. Nirmala!
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)