Sister Nirmala — the successor to Mother Teresa at the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, India — died Monday at the age of 81.
According to BBC, the superior general of the group had been suffering from heart disease but passed away peacefully in the company of other sisters.
"When I saw her about 15 days ago, she was unconscious and struggling," Archbishop Thomas D'Souza of Kolkata told The Indian Express. "But in the past two days she had regained consciousness and talked about the work to be done for the MoC. She was such a great soul. She will never talk about her illness."
Born to a Nepalese soldier in 1934, Sister Nirmala converted from Hinduism to Catholicism and joined the Missionaries of Charity at 17, according to The Asha Centre. She had a close relationship with Mother Teresa, who pushed her to study law and asked her to open homes in Panama, New York and Kathmandu.
Sister Nirmala succeeded Mother Teresa at the MoC in 1997, saying, "Mother Teresa can never be replaced. She is gifted with rare charisma that can never be acquired in one's lifetime."
However, many are saying Sister Nirmala established a legacy of her own.
"She had big shoes to fill," said Sunil Lucas, communications director for the Archdiocese of Kolkata, to Reuters. "But with simplicity, unstinting love and faith she proved herself."
Archbishop D'Souza echoed these sentiments, telling BBC that Sister Nirmala "carried forward Mother Teresa's legacy of compassion, gentleness, service to the poorest of the poor and holiness of life."
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