Tribute to Sr. Nirmala Joshi M.C.
Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul 2015
Our life on earth is a gift and a mystery. We are all God’s gifts to be lived for him and for others. Our life on earth is a mystery to be contemplated and shared.
Sr. Mary Nirmala Joshi M.C., born in Doranda, Ranchi, on 23rd July 1934, was a gift of God first and foremost to her own beloved parents and family. She grew up in a family which was her first school; and her parents were her first and most important teachers. She learnt from them the real and lasting values, which with time unfolded and blossomed.
As she grew in wisdom, knowledge and age, what her parents taught and what she learnt from her school years led her to go deeper into the truth. Her mind was not satisfied; her heart was longing for greater and lasting values of life. Her soul was thirsting for the living and loving God.
She understood that she was created by God to love and to be loved; she understood that God created her to love and share without boundaries, unconditionally and without being judgmental. She learnt that if she spent her time in judging others, she would not have time to love others. She came to understand that she should try to live and love today without too much brooding over the past or too much worrying about the future. She left the past to God’s mercy, the future to his providence and the present to his love. She lived the present with joy and enthusiasm.
Sr. Nirmala Joshi M.C.’s soul became more and more hungry and thirsty for the living God. The more she prayed, the more she wanted to meet the person to whom she was praying. Gradually she learnt that prayer without encountering the person becomes mechanical, and charity without transcendence becomes social work.
It is here that Jesus came into her life; Jesus understood her desire, Jesus took her into his school of love, of humility, of mercy and compassion. Jesus gave her the courage and the sublime virtues of charity and humility. She could no longer wait. She came out of her traditional religion and Hindu family setting. She walked into the dark and decided to walk in faith. She was taught to be sincere and honest by her parents, to respect persons irrespective of caste, colour, religion or status.
So now to be sincere and honest, she had to fall in love with the person of Jesus, whose ways and values she decided to embrace. She came to know Jesus more and more, not only as her Saviour but of all human beings. Jesus became her friend whose spouse she was going to become.
She began to search for the fullness of truth and for greater love. She found it in the person of Bl. Teresa M.C. and in the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity, the answer to and the fulfilment of her heart’s desire. She not only left her beloved parents and her family, but the religion that she was born into. So in March 1958, at the age of twenty-four, Ms. Kusum Joshi met Bl. Teresa M.C. That meeting for her was decisive. Before joining the Missionaries of Charity she embraced the Catholic faith in April 1958, and in the month of May of the same year she joined the Missionaries of Charity.
In the M.C. Society she found the answer to her soul’s desire, its hunger and thirst. She started experiencing more profoundly not only a human hunger and thirst, but Jesus’ own thirst for love and for souls. She came to realize that she was chosen to be the spouse of Jesus crucified. The more she came to know Jesus, the more she loved and served him in her own Sisters and in the persons of the poor.
She now started to read and meditate on the Word of God, the Bible. The more she read the Beatitudes, the more she discovered the profound meaning and the significance of them. She began to realize that it was no longer she who was the centre of her life but Jesus! She understood that life without love and charity is a grievous hell. She understood the meaning of the first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt 5:3). This means that without God we are utterly powerless, useless and worth nothing. Without Jesus we can do nothing. She realized that, like St. Paul said: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me”. She came to realize that all our life, everything in us is God’s gift to be used for the glory of God and for the good of others.
We are here not just to live for ourselves. We are created to love God and love him in our fellow men, especially those who live in poverty and hunger, both spiritually and materially. She understood that whatever we do to the least of our brothers we do it to Jesus. She came to appreciate the sublime beauty of her vocation to belong to Jesus and to have the mind and heart of Jesus. She allowed herself to be invaded by the Holy Spirit. She allowed him to melt her, mould her and use her to feed the hungry, not only with food for the body but also for the soul. She learnt that anything she did for anyone Christ counted as done for him. So she never hesitated to do good to others whether they deserved it or not, as she knew that God would never forget. She began to experience the infinite thirst of Jesus on the Cross and in the Eucharist for love and for souls.
She learnt that love is everything. Without love our life loses its meaning. Love cannot be conquered or defeated; love conquers all and everything. Love embraces all and everything. Is there anything that love cannot achieve? Charity coupled with humility is the strongest of all weapons in our struggle to conquer the world for God. Love makes itself known through persons who live closer to God and work for him.
The angels of heaven carried Sr. Nirmala M.C.’s soul to the bosom of the Trinity on the night of 22nd June 2015, from where she will bless and help everyone who asks her assistance.
Her mortal remains were exposed for public veneration in St. John’s parish church, Sealdah, Kolkata for an entire day. People of all walks of life, irrespective of caste and religion, status or colour, came to pay homage to her frail body. Among them were many dignitaries, including Mrs. Mamtha Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal. The media too were very active.
Prayers were offered ceaselessly by the M.C. Sisters, the LMCs and others, including the Eucharistic adoration the whole night long on the vigil of her funeral.
Sr. Nirmala M.C. was not feeling well for quite some time. She was in and out of the hospital for a few months, becoming weaker and weaker in body. But she tried to keep her spirit strong and alert. Her memory was lucid and sober.
Since Friday 19th June 2015 she was at home as her kidneys failed for the most part, with several other complications.
Saturday 20th June she became alarmingly serious as she was gasping for breath. Sisters surrounded her and began to pray, informing all the Regionals of the M.C. Sisters of her critical state. Sr. Prema M.C., Sr. Lysa M.C. and others rushed to St. John’s convent, Sealdah. Sr. Maria Danuta M.C., the head of the Contemplative Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, had gone with a few other Sisters to Tintaria to join in the retreat. As they heard of the critical condition of Sr. Nirmala M.C., they decided to come back to Kolkata, together with Sr. Jocelina M.C., the Regional Superior of Siliguri Region. Before reaching the convent in Siliguri they had a serious accident. All were shocked and hurt, but Sr. Jocelina M.C. had to be hospitalized and could not come to visit Sr. Nirmala M.C., as the doctors asked her to have a bed rest for eight weeks.
Most of the Regionals from India came to visit Sr. Nirmala M.C. and pray with the Sisters. Her room was always crowded, offering prayers and supplications day and night, while the Sisters in the convent had their adoration and prayers offered ceaselessly. Holy Mass was being offered every day in her room. She was in agony since the morning of 20th June 2015. Her own sister, Sr. Mary Therese A.C., stayed near her bed praying. One of her brothers and his wife arrived on Monday evening.
Sr. Ancy M.C., who never left Sr. Nirmala since she fell sick, informed Fr. Sebastian M.C. of the critical state of Sr. Nirmala M.C. Since I had my ticket already booked for Delhi on 2nd July 2015 and visit Kolkata as well, I struggled to know the will of God. I prayed much, asking God for a sign in order to know His will. And the sign was given through Mr. Flavio and Mrs. Sonia, our LMC couple, who came to my rescue. Together with Ms. Gianna LMC they did everything and purchased the ticket for the night flight by Air India of Saturday 20th June 2015. It was already 4.30 p.m. My heart-felt thanks go to all three of them.
It was really the providence of God for me to find a flight on the same night, which enabled me to reach Kolkata on Sunday afternoon. Mr. Mathew, my nephew, with his daughter Ms. Anu were waiting to take me to Sr. Nirmala M.C. straight away. By 6.00 p.m. we were in St. John’s, Sealdah.
Sr. Nirmala M.C.’s condition, humanly speaking, was very pathetic. In such situation one can be at a loss, at least that was what I experienced. I prayed over Sr. Nirmala M.C. for a while and then went to offer the holy Mass in the M.C. Contemplative Sisters’ chapel. To my surprise the chapel was packed with the Sisters who came to visit Sr. Nirmala M.C. from the various communities.
Sr. Nirmala M.C. continued to be in the same state of intense pain and mortal agony on Monday 22nd June 2015. About midday I visited her again and I prayed over her for a long time. I told the Sisters who were praying in silence that Jesus wanted us to praise and thank God for Sr. Nirmala M.C. Although it was hard for me to start to pray aloud, I began to pray to the Holy Spirit to put in my mouth the prayers that I should offer. They were no longer my words but the Holy Spirit’s. On my request the sisters sang songs of praise and thanksgiving. It might have gone for an hour.
I still felt that there was a bondage and that we had to pray for deliverance. I discussed it with Sr. Prema M.C. and Sr. Ancy M.C. and they were in full agreement. So we had our Divine Mercy Chaplet and prayers of deliverance and sprinkling with holy water on her and on all in the room praying with.
The altar was now ready for holy Mass within minutes, and we had the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with Sr. Nirmala M.C. for the last time. We offered the votive Mass “For the Grace of a Happy Death”. I gave the precious blood in a spoon to her. She not only received, but I could see that she really enjoyed receiving the precious blood of Jesus. After Holy communion we prayed together the prayer of Abandonment of Bl. Charles of Foucauld: “Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do I thank you. I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me and in all your creatures…” She was now ready to pass from this world of suffering, tears and pain into “The Holy City, the New Jerusalem” (cf. Rev. 21:1-6).
Before I went to the Baitakhana Marian sanctuary to spend the night, I said to Sr. Ancy M.C. and a few other Sisters that she would go home to God that night, and thanks be to God she went, as she was now free and prepared.
Sr. Nirmala M.C.’s last days of intense pain, prolonged agony, her death, the wake and her funeral were all connected with the founding of the Contemplative Branch of the M.C. Sisters, which took place on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Friday 25th June 1976. Incidentally, it was on the same day Fr. Sebastian M.C. arrived in Los Angeles from Kolkata. Over the years Sr. Nirmala M.C. and I came to know more and more about our common aspirations. Bl. Teresa M.C. wanted us to stay close in order to have the same spirit as far as possible.
For me it was a gift and a privilege to be near Sr. Nirmala M.C. during her last days on earth and to pray with so many of our Sisters, especially to offer the last holy Mass with and for Sr. Nirmala M.C.. God also granted me the gift to take active part in the wake, the funeral and the burial of Sr. Nirmala M.C., which was a miracle that the good Lord granted to me through the intercession of Sr. Nirmala M.C.
My heart-felt thanks go to Sr. Prema M.C., Sr. Lysa M.C., Sr. Maria Danuta M.C., Sr. Ancy M.C., Sr. Fatima M.C., Sr. Gracia M.C. and so many others who have been so kind to me during my stay in Kolkata. I offer my thanks also to Mr. Mathew and family, Mrs. Sumita Mantosh LMC and Mrs. Angelina, her daughter and others. May the good Lord bless and reward them all.
Above all, we thank God for the gift of Sr. Nirmala M.C. to the Missionaries of Charity, to the Church and to the world. She now will continue to bless us and pray for us from heaven. “My heaven will consist in doing good on earth” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux)
Love and prayers.
God bless you.
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C.