'Its A Small Church But It Contains The World'

By Sister Lourdes Fernandez MM 

Albania is a small country in South Eastern Europe known not only as the birthplace of the parents of the Blessed Mother Teresa but also because of its extraordinary history. The Albanian people and the Church suffered severe religious persecution under Communist rule. By the 1980s, albania had become the most isolated country in the world. In 1995, the Maryknoll Sisters found their way there. Here Sister Lourdes shares with us their experience in the land tha once was declared by Communist dictator Enver Hoxha as 'the world's first completely atheist state.‘

On May 1, 1995 the Catholic Church started activities in Pogradec,’ Veronika recalled, ‘and it brought happiness to my family.’ Veronika and four other young persons were baptized at Easter 1997 when Albania was in turmoil. ‘The darkness and ugliness of gunfire surrounded us but inside our hearts was a fire of joy and love,’ she said.

Apostles to a Martyred Land

By Janice McLaughlin, MM

Three Maryknoll Sisters arrived in Albania to begin the congregation’s first mission outreach to Eastern Europe. Sisters Winifred O’Donnell, Vivian Vortuba and Lourdes Fernandez are following the footsteps of St. Paul, the first apostle to Illyricum, as Albania was known in early days of the Church.
(Romans 15:19).

The poorest country in Europe, Albania, suffered immense deprivation under one of the world’s harshest communist regimes. All religions were banned under President Enver Hoxha, who declared Albania the world’s first officially atheist state. All but 29 of the country’s 195 Catholics priests were executed or died in prison; church buildings were turned into theaters and sports places; clergy and religious could not be trained or function in any public way.