Sister Lourdes Fernandez

Current Ministry Location: Philippines

Sister Lourdes was born March 27th, 1943 in Ramon, Isabela Province, Philippines.

She graduated from LaSalette High School in 1958. She graduated from St. Rita’s College in Manila in 1964 with a BSE then taught elementary school for several years before entering the Maryknoll Sisters Philippines Quezon City novitiate in June of 1967. In 1968, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Maryknoll College in Quezon City. Sister Lourdes pronounced her First Vows June 6th, 1971 and her Final Vows November 27th, 1975 both in Hong Kong.

Her first mission assignment was to Hawaii, where she taught for two years. In 1969, Lourdes was assigned to Hong Kong.  After language study, Sister Lourdes co-founded and was director of the Workers Formation Program at the Kwun Tong Pastoral Center in Hong Kong. The Center offered social, cultural, educational and spiritual programs to youth, many of whom were factory workers, in the workforce as well as linking Hong Kong workers, to those in Japan and Korea. The center’s aim was to reach out to young workers in need of moral and spiritual support.

Later, Sister Lourdes returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, NY where she served for three years as a journalist, photographer, graphic artist and filmmaker in the Sisters Communications Office.

Sister Lourdes was first assigned to Albania on October 6th 2006, in response to the invitation to help the church in Eastern Europe. She lived in Pogradec until 2002 where she collaborated with a Dominican community in Elbasan teaching values education in both Albanian and English. Describing those years in her own words, Sister said, “It’s been an experience of epiphany, a manifestation of God present. For me, it’s been a profound experience of the mystery of God.”

Albania, a nation in isolation for four decades under the dictator Enver Hoxha, opened its doors to the international community after the collapse of the cold war in 1991. In Hoxha’s time, Albania was proclaimed as the world’s first atheistic state. During that time, Islam, Orthodox Christianity, and Catholicism were widely persecuted. Maryknoll Sisters opted to go as pioneers to Pogradec, where there was no Catholic presence and where grandmothers had kept alive a thirst for God in their children and grandchildren.

At first, the Maryknoll Sisters rented three rooms for meetings, classes and a chapel. The children, adolescents and young adults asked for classes in English. When music, art and the Bible were offered, they came to those, too. After each class, the Sisters invited anyone who wished to stay and pray with them and were amazed at the positive response. One remarked in the chapel that “it’s a small church, but the whole world is in it!”

If anyone asked for instruction in the Catholic faith, the Sisters asked the parents if they supported that desire, and all said yes. The ministry was basically friendship, praying together, answering questions, teaching them things they needed to know; sharing one another’s lives and hopes, a creation of a Catholic Christian Community. These young people grasped the meaning of church as a community and not so much as a big church building.

In Elbasan, Albania, Sister Lourdes visited families whenever she could. On the day that Albanians celebrate independence from the Ottoman Empire, she and the school principal were invited to a commemoration. In a Power Point presentation, they saw a mosaic mural of the baptistry and the Eucharist, depicting the 6th-century Christian presence in Elbasan.

In 2014, Sister Lourdes was assigned to the Vocation Ministry Team of the Maryknoll Congregation based in the Philippines.