Her Nepalese parents were devout Hindus of the highest caste, the Brahmans. Educated in the traditional values of Hindu society, she discovered Christ and his Gospel unexpectedly.
Here, Sister Nirmala spoke with missionary F. Felix Lazcano.
Q: Who is Sister Nirmala?
Sister Nirmala: Sister Nirmala is a child of God.
Q: How did you come to know Jesus Christ?
Sister Nirmala: I did not wish to convert to Christianity. I had no idea what it was about, and I was very happy being a Hindu. However, in my city there was no institute for girls, so I was registered at Patna Women's College, a Catholic institution.
A few days after being there, a Hindu girl, an American student, knelt down and began to pray when the bells rang. I remained standing and looking at her, and something happened: a gentle movement in my soul and I felt that the living Jesus came to me. From then on, I began to ask a lot of questions about Jesus and, after six and a half years I came to Calcutta, met Mother Teresa, and was baptized.
Q: How do you feel about being Mother Teresa's successor?
Sister Nirmala: It is something totally unexpected and unmerited; it is Jesus' grace. I am humble holding the position. It is a gift, so I accept it.
Q: But your job as superior general must not be at all easy?
Sister Nirmala: Yes, if I depend on myself; but if I depend on God, and with the help of my Sisters, I can do it day after day.
Q: What challenges does the congregation face after Mother Teresa's death?
Sister Nirmala: The same: to live totally surrendered to God. This is our daily struggle.
Q: What are the most salient characteristics of your spirituality?
Sister Nirmala: To slake Jesus' thirst on the cross for all of us and to love the poorest of the poor. Love and service. The Missionaries of Charity make a fourth vow, in addition to the traditional ones of poverty, chastity and obedience: the free and wholehearted service of the poorest.
Q: Are persecutions and difficulties frequent for Christians in India?
Sister Nirmala: If we are Christians, we must be prepared to be persecuted. It is a matter of fidelity to what we are. He gave his life for us, and if we are not willing to give our life, what are we doing here?