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September 7, 1998  HOME | NEWS | SPECIALS

'We would like to have our mother as our saint in heaven. She will be able to do so much from heaven'

Sister Nirmala There was some controversy about installing a statue of Mother Teresa. How is it that some people could set up a memorial committee in her name without your knowledge?

(Laughs) You know they are people. Sometimes they don't know. They don't. We are not against the statue and renaming of the road. But to create a fund in Mother's name and raise money creates confusion in the minds of people.

Have any steps been taken for Mother Teresa's canonisation?

Yes, the step has been taken to prepare for the first step. The first step usually starts five years after the death. What now has started is preparation to begin that step. To gather Mother's documents. Mother had written a lot of letters, so we want to gather them.

When will you send them to Rome?

Not now. First they will all come to us. Later on, when the time comes and when Rome asks, we'll send them.

Are you happy that your founder can become a saint?

It can happen. It will take time. It may take a long time, it may take a short time. But yes, we are happy about that. We would like to have our mother as our saint in heaven. She will be able to do so much from heaven.

Synonymous with Mother Teresa and the MoC -- what relationship does Calcutta have with your order?

It is a very loving relationship. People of Calcutta had great love for Mother. We love the people here. After all this is our home.

Did you ever think you would head this order some day?

No, I didn't. Though I used to hear it from sisters sometimes, I never wanted to hear all that. I never expected or suspected this. But I never desired it. God gave me the responsibility, I accepted it.

Your order has always attracted media attention, does the intrusion trouble you?

(Laughs) Yes, we usually do not want the media, but there is a time we have to remain open -- like now -- Mother's death anniversary. After this again there will be silence. At the same time it is a part of our life. People want to know about us. They want to know about Mother. The order. So we owe it to the world. But we would be happy without the media (laughs). Yet the mediapeople have been very gracious.

How has your daily schedule changed after you took over as superior general?

Before I was a contemplative. I used to spend a lot of time in prayer, silence, meditation. Giving instructions to sisters, assisting Mother. Now I have other work which makes it difficult for me to visit the work centres every day. Then there is correspondence, personal and group guidance to noviciates, meeting people. Travelling to centres outside. It is both work and prayer.

What other duties do the Contemplatives do besides prayer?

Go out two hours a day to meet people stricken with poverty. Tending them, listening to them -- community work. There are days of complete silence. The MoC do not serve human beings but God.

Do you travel frequently?

If I go out, I go for two to three months at a time. Then when I return there is work piled here. After Mother's death I was out for three weeks, then two months, then one month, then 10 days.

Is it correct that you travelled a lot with Mother?

Yes, till the last days. In the last three years or so, I travelled practically constantly with her. In the beginning she used to go alone, but as she grew older we started accompanying her. We never wanted her to go alone.

You were among the five sisters who went to Venezuela to start the first MoC overseas home. Do you have any special memories from that time?

I spent one year and seven months there. Of the five sisters, three have left. Recently we all met when I went to South America and remembered all those days. One is in Venezuela, one in Kalighat.

Do the MoC still go with things packed in cardboard boxes when they go to a new place?

We keep our personal things in those boxes. If we are going to a very poor country, we carry some clothes, food etc. We start with the minimum and people help us.

Where all did Mother send you to start homes?

New York, Honduras, Washington, Chicago, Brooklyn...then in Sweden, Italy, Rome, Cuba, Nairobi, Nepal...

Nepal, you must be having a great bonding with that country?

Yes, my country (laughs). I never lived there but had a great desire to go there. My whole education was for that, but then I joined Mother Teresa. At that time Mother said whether you work for people in Bengal or Nepal, it's all the same when you work for God. It was only thirty years after working with the MoC, that Mother took me to Nepal to start a contemplative branch there.

Were your parents terribly upset when you accepted another faith?

They did not want it but after ten years they came to know I was happy here. By that time my younger sister also became a Catholic sister -- she joined the Apostolic Carmel.

When can sisters go home to their families?

Usually once in ten years, but we consider emergencies. Relatives can come and visit the sisters every first Sunday of the month.

Why did Mother send you to law school?

She wanted me to help the poor. I had always wanted to study law before I received the faith. I never even told Mother but she knew. When I asked God why did he do this, he told that I gave up law for him so he gave it back to me. And so God gave me a higher law.

Does the MoC get more vocations than other congregations?

We are one of the congregations that gets the largest -- I can't say we are the largest.

Do your own sisters look after the funds you receive or you have someone else?

Sisters, our sisters do it.

Like other organisations do you have auditors who come to check your accounts?

We have auditors.

Is it true that there is only one telephone in Mother House?

Now we have two. One for local and one for international calls.





No computers either. What about typewriters?

Yes, we have typewriters. Let us use our hands and brains as much as we can.

Mother Teresa used to meet the Pope often, do you have a trip or meeting scheduled with him?

No, not now. Whenever I go to Rome I always meet with Father. Even Mother -- she didn't leave Rome without meeting him. We made an appointment and met him.

Even Mother Teresa?

Yes, but he never refuses to see us. The Holy Father is very happy to see us.

Photographs: Jewella C Miranda

Mother Teresa, the legacy