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Sister Nirmala Joshi: Catholic nun who took over as head of the Missionaries of Charity following the death of Mother Teresa

Indian politicians including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi praised her work for the poor in Kolkata

Martha Morris
Monday 29 June 2015 18:51 BST
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Sister Nirmala at her first press conference in 1997 after Mother Teresa had died
Sister Nirmala at her first press conference in 1997 after Mother Teresa had died (AP)

Sister Nirmala Joshi was an Indian nun who replaced Mother Teresa as head of the Missionaries of Charity. She was selected to lead the Roman Catholic charity six months before the death of its founder in 1997 and expanded the organisation's reach to 134 countries by opening centres in nations such as Afghanistan, Israel and Thailand.

She remained its superior general until stepping down in 2009. That year, she also received India's second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, in honour of her service to the nation.

She was born to Hindu parents in 1934; her father was an army officer. She converted to Roman Catholicism after being educated by Christian missionaries and learning of Mother Teresa's work. A student at the University of Patna, she boarded with Catholic nuns. One day, she saw a fellow student kneel in silent prayer as a bell sounded. "At that moment Jesus touched my heart," she recalled.

Indian politicians including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi praised her work for the poor in Kolkata, where the charity is based. "Sister Nirmala's life was devoted to service, caring for the poor and underprivileged," Modi said, adding that he was "saddened by her demise. May her soul rest in peace." West Bengal's highest elected official, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said "Kolkata and the world will miss her." The Vatican newspaper, l'Osservatore Romano, paid lengthy homage to Nirmala, noting that she was elected superior of the order even though she had an incurable form of malaria that gave her constant fevers.

Nirmala Joshi, nun: born 23 July 1934; died 23 June 2015.

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