Sr. Nirmala Joshi M.C.’S Funeral and Burial
Sr. Nirmala Joshi M.C. went home to God on the night of 22nd June 2015, at 12.05 a.m. She was born in Doranda, Ranchi, on 23rd July 1934. Her parents named her Kusum. She was the eldest of ten children.
She met Bl. Teresa of Kolkata in March 1958, at the age of 24. She received the sacrament of baptism in April of the same year, and a month later joined the Missionaries of Charity. Since then she has been a very active member of the Missionaries of Charity.
On the feast of the Sacred Heart, on 25th June 1976 she co-founded with Bl. Teresa M.C. the Contemplative Branch of the Missionaries of Charity Sisters, at 1070 Union Avenue, the Bronx, New York.
Sr. Nirmala Joshi M.C. was elected Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity on 13th March 1997 in the presence of Bl. Teresa M.C. as her first successor. She was re-elected for a second term in 2003, and for a third term in 2009, which she declined due to health reasons.
Since her first religious profession she was very much involved in the formation of Sisters in all levels. Remaining very close to Bl. Teresa M.C., Sr. Nirmala M.C. made full use of all her gifts, talents, educational qualifications, and above all the inspirations and the promptings of the Holy Spirit for the betterment of the Missionaries of Charity, and for its internal and external development, growth and expansion.
Her one goal in life was to become better and holier each day. She worked very hard to realize her goals and also helped other members to do the same. She was a real gift to the Missionaries of Charity, to the Church and to the world. Her going home to God is not going to stop her from doing good on earth; on the contrary, as she is now closer to God, she can help us from heaven, like St. Thérèse of Liesieux who said: “My heaven would consist in doing good on earth”. This is also the mission of Sr. Nirmala Joshi M.C., like all the saints in heaven!
Sr. Nirmala M.C.’s mortal remains were exposed first in the M.C. Contemplative Sisters’ chapel, where we had the holy Mass at 6.30 a.m. on 23rd June 2015. As the chapel was too small and St. John Parish Church is about ten meters away from the convent, her mortal remains were transferred to the Church in procession with prayers and songs. The body was blessed and prayers were offered by Fr. Sebastian M.C. At the end of a short homily, to everyone’s surprise the media were crowding like bees. One by one they started coming around Fr. Sebastian M.C. and wanted to know more about Sr. Nirmala M.C. Of course the M.C. Sisters were the right persons to give proper information regarding Sr. Nirmala M.C.’s life and apostolate.
Mrs. Mamtha Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, came to visit Sr. Nirmala M.C.’s mortal remains. Since the weather was not that favourable for the body to remain in St. John’s, it was decided that it would be transferred to the M.C. Sisters’ convent in Thenkara for the night, where they have a proper mortuary. Mrs. Mamtha Banerjee sent the glass case for the body, which meant that the body could stay in St. John’s until 9.00 a.m. of the following day. This facilitated the crowds to come to visit Sr. Nirmala M.C’s body until 8.00 p.m..
At 8.00 p.m. we had the holy Mass with Sr. Nirmala M.C’s body, at the conclusion of which the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament continued for the entire night. Sr. Prema M.C., Sr. Lysa M.C. and many other Sisters from the various communities around participated in the Eucharistic celebration. The number of our Sisters went on increasing.
We had the holy mass of the nativity of St. John the Baptist at 6.30 a.m. of 24th June 2015. Fr. Moral, the parish priest of St. John parish concelebrated with Fr. Sebastian M.C. The spirituality of St. John Baptist: “Jesus must become more important while he becomes less important” (Cf. Jn 3:30) could be applied to Sr. Nirmala M.C. as well.
Now the hour had come to transfer the mortal remains of Sr. Nirmala M.C. from St. John’s church to the Mother House and the Generalate of the Missionaries of Charity. The procession in walking speed started at about 9.15 a.m. Sr. Ancy M.C., the parish priest, and Fr. Sebastian M.C. sat in the same vehicle which was carrying the body of Sr. Nirmala M.C. People in big numbers walked with the body. The roads were totally clear for the procession to proceed very smoothly. There were periodic light aspersions from heaven. We prayed the holy Rosary all along the road with hymns and songs.
There was a halt right in front of Shishubhavan, the children’s home, for five minutes to enable all the inmates to have a last “dharsan” of Sr. Nirmala M.C. who must have been very pleased with that gesture of respect and thoughtfulness. So many sisters, women and children came out of the home to meet and greet her. Their eyes were filled with tears. God continued the aspersion from heaven as well.
Once more the procession continued, and with prayers and songs and reached the Mother House by 10.00 a.m. Sr. Prema M.C., Sr. Lysa M.C., Sr. Christie M.C., Sr. Deepam M.C. and so many of the sisters were waiting to receive the body of Sr. Nirmala M.C. with great love and respect. The sisters carried her body and placed it near Bl. Teresa M.C.’s tomb for public view. There was a flow of people. The media were all set in on at the back, behind Bl. Teresa M.C.’s tomb, where they could have a proper view. Sr. Nirmala M.C.’s sister, Sr. Mary Thérèse AC, one of her brothers and his wife, and one more sister were seated in the front row facing Sr. Nirmala M.C.’s body. Many M.C. sisters and some priests and religious joined the family. There was a flow of people who entered through one door, went around the body and out through another door. Many of them brought flowers, bouquets, wreaths and garlands. Volunteers were there to receive them, put on the top of the glass case, and then arrange them around the body.
So from 10.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. people of all walks, Hindus, Muslims and Christians of the various denominational churches and others were all among and part of the crowd on that unique day of 24th June 2015.
There was a Protestant bishop with his choir, who sang songs of devotion and love in Bengali for a long time. They were loud and clear.
At 3.00 p.m. Sr. Nirmala M.C.’s body was taken out of the glass case, placed in the coffin and carried to the chapel upstairs for the funeral, which was going to be at 4.00 p.m. as planned on the previous day in our meeting in the Mother House. Before the Mass started all the sisters who wanted to pay their final tribute to her had enough time to do so.
At about 4.00 p.m. Mrs. Mamtha Banerjee, the Chief Minister, who came the day before to St. John’s church, now arrived. His eminence Cardinal Terespore Topo, the archbishop of Ranchi, was the main celebrant. His Excellency Most Rev. Thomas D’Souza, the archbishop of Kolkata, was the homilist. Most Rev. Salvadore Lobo, the bishop of Bariupur, was the third main concelebrant. Fr. Sebastian was asked to proclaim the Gospel by the archbishop. Besides the five main priest concelebrants, there must have been about 50 more priests who concelebrated.
At 4.00 p.m. one of the contemplative sisters read a detailed 25 minutes eulogy, followed by Mrs. Mamtha Banerjee’s speech and Sr. Prema’s vote of thanks. BY then it was about 4.40 p.m., and the priests who waited all this time in the sacristy and corridor, moved in procession to the chapel as the choir started the entrance hymn.
Before the penitential rite prayers were said over the body, followed by incensing it and then sprinkling it with holy water. The “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” was sung by the choir. It was an experience to distribute communion to so many M.C. Sisters and others who participated in the funeral Mass.
Three screens were fixed in the Mother House to have the maximum participation of almost one thousand people inside. All the M.C. Sisters on the top floor, second floor and the chapel floor joined the celebration watching on the screen; and then when the time for communion came, they were prepared and ready. On the ground floor and in the courtyard of the house were mostly lay people who had come in by 4.00 p.m. The whole house was packed.
A big screen was also put up outside with the help of the traffic police. The Kolkata police department worked very hard since Tuesday 23rd June 2015.
Finishing the holy Mass, there was the blessing and the incensing of the body again. By now it was 6.00 p.m. and the procession to the cemetery began shortly after.
The coffin was now sealed and the M.C. Brothers carried the coffin to the hearse. The procession was similar to that of the morning. It was conducted in walking speed, except that there were so many more people and sisters walking. Mrs. Mamtha Banerjee, the Chief Minister, also walked for a while with the hearse and then she slipped off quietly from the crowd. Once again there were periodic aspersions from above. Some of the M.C. Brothers and Fr. Sebastian M.C. were with Sr. Nirmala M.C.
The hearse was parked In front of St. John’s church. The coffin was taken out and carried in procession to the grave prepared for Sr. Nirmala M.C. in St. John’s cemetery. The procession included his eminence Cardinal Terespore Topo, most Rev. Thomas D’Souza, the archbishop of Kolkata, and many of us priests and M.C. Sisters. There was not enough room for all lay people to be inside the compound.
The grave was blessed, incensed and the body of Sr. Nirmala M.C. was let down into the grave. The Cardinal three times took mud in his hand and threw it over the coffin. It was 7.25 p.m. of Wednesday 24th June, 2015. What remained after was saying good-bye to whomever was around.
Sr. Nirmala M.C. went home to God. Her mortal remains were laid in the tomb. Her immortal soul was separated from her frail and sickly body in order to be reunited to God in fullness of life and love. Although she died, her love did not die. She from heaven will continue to love without limits, conditions and barriers. Her heaven consists in doing good on earth. May she rest in peace.
Love and prayers.
God bless you.
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C.