The challenge of the popular missions in Albania

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The Redemptorist charism, in our history of ministry to the Church, stands out above all for the popular missions. But we know that already in the early days, with the experience of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer in Central Europe, the Redemptorists had to find new ways to realise their founding charism.

In Albania, the Redemptorists arrived in 2014 in a context of missionary urgency, given the lack of sufficient priests to minister to the Catholic faithful. The Redemptorist community has taken up the ministry in Kamëz, probably the country’s largest Catholic parish, located in the outskirts of the capital city, with the regular pastoral ministry in several rural communities. Nowadays, the parish has the name of our founding father, St. Alphonsus. In addition to the pastoral care of the Kamëz Mission, every year, the confreres participate in the Summer Mission organised by the diocese of Sapa for two weeks in July. The diocese gathers priests, religious and lay people for an extraordinary evangelisation in the mountains of Tropoja, which are under the care of a small community of Franciscan nuns during the year, without a priest.

The interprovincial community aspires to sow the Redemptorist charism in this Balkan country by preaching popular missions. In the last eight years, it did the experience of three missions, which have several characteristics in common. The first is an inter-congregational or inter-ecclesial project, with priests, religious and lay people with different charisms, united in one missionary action. Secondly, the mission takes an inculturation approach – which starts from simple objectives and reaches, with simple means, the heart of the recipients. The third characteristic is the joy of the Gospel, which experienced both the missionaries and the mission addresses.

These three popular mission experiences in Albania were conducted in communion with other charisms, where Redemptorists are part of the missionary team. We bring our experiences to the evangelisation and missionary enthusiasm of a larger community. The first experience was in Advent 2018, in the city of Gjirokastër, in the south of the country, in an area with very few Catholics. For one week, 3 Redemptorist confreres joined with two religious communities, Franciscans of St. Philippi and Daughters of Christ the King, to announce the Good News of Jesus the Redeemer.

The second experience was in the rural area of St. Alphonsus parish of Kamëz. Together with religious men and women of the Institute of the Incarnate Word and young Albanians, the Holy Mission was carried out in the communities of Fushë-Krujë (Larushk, Arrameras, Luz and Hasan) in the summer of 2021. During an intense week, missionaries were visiting all the families; they were giving catechesis, conducting celebrations and recreational activities. All that actions led to a renewal of faith in the great closing celebration, presided over by the bishop, during which baptisms, confirmations and marriages were celebrated.

The third experience was in the village of Shëndëlli, which translates as St. Elias, near the Greek border and facing the large island of Corfu. In a town with about 70 Catholic families that had been without celebrations or Church presence for three years, a new missionary impulse was needed. The team brought missionaries from various parts of the Apostolic Administration in southern Albania. It consisted of the local parish priests, two Rogationists, an Albanian missionary couple, a diocesan priest Fidei donum, three religious sisters from different congregations and a Redemptorist. For a week, all the homes were visited (including the Muslim families in the village), there were prayers and celebrations in the church centre (there is no church), meetings of men, women and young people, and it all culminated in the first Eucharist after three years.

Obviously, in each of those missionary experiences, simplicity, closeness, and the joy of the Gospel have prevailed. However, our greatest experience was that the Church evangelises together. We are all called to live the charism of the mission in communion.

Fr. Laureano Del Otero Sevillano, C.Ss.R.

Redemptorist Mission in Albania

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