Activity in Bushat (Albania)
8 September 1991 – Opening of a house in Bushat, Shkodra, Albania, our first mission house outside Rome, where we have built a house for the disabled.
13th January 1993 – Blessing of the newly built Church in Bushat, Shkoder (Albania) by Archbishop Ivan Dias, the Apostolic Nuncio for Albania (see the photos). Archbishop Ivan Dias said that this was the first: no other new church had been consecrated in Albania since the fall of the communist regime. The Church was packed from wall to wall, with large crowds flowing out onto the street, which was nothing like as busy then as it is today.
Local activities: in the old days although we had only promised to meet the spiritual needs of the people we found ourselves inevitably involved in the distribution of food, clothes and even furniture and building materials. Spiritual assistance was primarily in the form of the sacramental services, particularly the celebration of the Mass, the baptism of infants and regular distribution of Holy Communion to the sick and the aged, keeping ever in mind the supreme norm and goal of the Church’s mission at both the universal and the local level: the salvation of souls.
Meanwhile, the heart of the Church’s life continued to beat in Bushat to the rhythm of prayer, contemplation, the Divine Office, the Eucharistic Sacrifice and all the help that we can render, according to our own charism and Constitutions.
In April, 2006 the Metropolitan Archbishop A. Massafra OFM inaugurated the orphanage called “Bethel” which means “House of God”, built by he Missionaries of Charity-Contemplative, for homeless mentally and physically challenged boys and men of Albania, who otherwise would remain abandoned, uncared and unloved, in the presence of the Mayor of Bushat. The project has been approved by the Episcopal Conference and praised by the Diocesan Bishop, and even by the Mayor, who wanted to sign the project himself.
The Mayor of Bushat has said: “In our village there are many orphan and handicapped boys and the families have no money to give them a dignified life. In these conditions, the building of a house for handicapped and sick boys is very useful in our village. We welcome this great Charity investment!” (Tomé Game, Mayor of Bushat).
“Bethel” is run by the Brothers of the Missionaries of Charity-Contemplative and depend entirely on Divine Providence. The Brothers of the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative are helped by co-workers, Lay Missionaries of Charity (LMC) and volunteers, who will offer their free and wholehearted service for long or short periods. Workers also are employed to assist the Brothers in serving the boys.
Bethel must have the basic qualities of love, which is the purpose of our life and existence and the real incentive for our life of service. And this love is the twofold love of God and love of neighbour. So never hesitate to do good to others, whether they deserve it or not; God will never forget. “In the evening of life, when we appear before God, we will be judged on love” (St. John of the Cross).
Secondly, this twofold love must be expressed in humility: service without humility will make the one who serves feel superior to the one served. Therefore we pray each day: “Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them this day their daily bread and by our understanding love, give peace and joy”.
Finally, prayer is an indispensable factor for those who work in Bethel. This is mainly because the work we try to do is God’s work, and we need to consult him. In practice this means that every morning we start our apostolate with a prayer together with the workers; we also pray the Holy Rosary every day with and for the children, with the staff members as far as this is possible; on Sundays we have Holy Mass with our boys and men and our workers.
It must know that the disabled have the same soul as any normal human being has. Their handicap or defect is not in their souls, but in their bodies or minds. Their souls may be purer than ours. The more we work with the physically and mentally handicapped people, the more we discover our own many spiritual handicaps, disabilities and paralysis!
Historic background of Albania
Before our eyes there are three Albanias: the Albania of the past, present and future. I would now like to contrast two Albanians who from 1946 onward became prominent figures: Henver Hoxha who was an Albanian by birth and Blessed Teresa M.C. who was of Albanian blood though she was not born in Albania, but in Skopje, present day Macedonia. Enver Hoxha was the dictator who tried to build an Albania without God. He worked to abolish faith in God from the hearts of the people. Priests were arrested, Churches were confiscated: He made his people believe without God they were the happiest people in the world. Since March, 1967, by law Albania was declared atheistic, which meant anyone who had anything to do with God or religion would be punished, even to a death sentence.
It was almost at the same period that Jesus chose Bl. Teresa M.C to happily work with and for God in the paradoxical city of Kolkata, reaching India on 6 January, 1929. About this woman, on 25 April, 1993 John Paul II standing on the balcony of the Archbishop’s room, in Shkodra, Albania, said: “…I cannot fail to greet a very humble person who is here among us, Mother Teresa of Calcutta in India, whose homeland is here…. Today I thank you, Sister, in the name of the universal Church”. Bl. Teresa went to every corner of the world spreading the fragrance of Jesus’ love, Jesus’ compassion, Jesus’ peace and joy.
The Albania of today must try to take Blessed Teresa as their model and their mirror. The future of Albania is safe and secure as long as the present day people follow the edifying and inspiring example of their beloved daughter, Blessed Teresa Bojaxhiu.
God bless you.
Fr. Sebastian vazhakala M.C.