Sister Lourdes Fernandez, M.M.
Current Ministry Location-Phillipines
Sister Lourdes Fernandez returned to Albania October 6, 2006, and collaborated with a Dominican community in Elbasan teaching values education in both Albanian and English. She was first missioned to Albania in February, 1995 and lived in Pogradec for seven years in response to the need to help the church in Eastern Europe. Sister Lourdes describes these years, “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.
Sister Lourdes is from Ramon in Isabela Province in the Philippines. A graduate of St. Rita’s College in Manila, she taught elementary school for several years before joining Maryknoll in 1967. Her first mission assignment was to Hawaii, where she taught for two years before going to Hong Kong.
She co-founded and was director of the Workers Formation Program at the Kwun Tong Pastoral Center in Hong Kong, which offered social, cultural, educational and spiritual programs to youth in the workforce as well as linking workers from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. It has been a way of reaching out to young workers who were in need of some moral and spiritual support.
For three years, Sister Lourdes also worked as a journalist, photographer, graphic artist and filmmaker in the Maryknoll Sisters Communications Office.
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 Congregation based in the Phillipines.