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Mother Teresa's successor passes, her legacy lives on

The successor of Mother Teresa, Sister Nirmala Joshi, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 81. The world mourned the loss of India’s icon when Mother Teresa died in 1997. But the Missionaries of Charity were in Joshi’s capable hands and the she continued Mother Teresa’s work and legacy.

The cause of death has not been disclosed, but according to the order, her health had been declining and it has been known that Joshi suffered from an incurable form of malaria.

Joshi stepped down from her role in 2009. In her time as a Sister of Charity, she helped expand the order’s reach beyond India by opening homes in Venezuela and South Bronx, New York. She devoted her life to the poor and will be remembered as the one who helped keep Mother Teresa’s mission alive even after she was gone.

“I never try to fill her shoes,” Joshi said in a 1998 interview with the New York Times, “I have to wear my own small shoes. I don’t have to be Mother Teresa, just Sister Nirmala, and being Sister Nirmala isn’t so difficult. If I had to be Mother Teresa, I would have collapsed.”

I was only four years old when Mother Teresa died but I still remember watching the news coverage of her funeral. I knew her as the little old nun that was on the holy card hanging on our fridge. I grew up learning about her as an inspiration for the world to love and care for others, especially the poorest of the poor. But I didn’t fully understand her impact until I visited Kolkata and worked with the Sisters of Charity.

Mother Teresa was so much more than an inspirational figure. She did the dirty work and dedicated her life to helping the sick and dying in any way she could. Her legacy is still living strong in each of the nuns that I met. Like Joshi, they work day and night to serve the poor and provide what they can for them.

When I was little I saw Mother Teresa and the Charity as the world’s heroes. And while I still consider them as heroes, what I realized from these sisters is that they’re not trying to save the world and they know they can’t save everyone. They’re doing their part to make sure that the poorest of the poor are given compassion and dignity in their lifetime.

As Joshi’s life is celebrated, this is the message I want to live by and remember.