Tirana, Albania, Sep 25, 2014 / 20:18 pm
Among the powerful moments on Pope Francis' Sept. 21 trip to Albania was the Holy Father's encounter with an 85 year-old Franciscan Stigmatine nun, who recalled witnessing to the faith in the midst of the Communist regime.
Sister Maria Kaleta spoke to the Pope during his meeting with priests, religious, seminarians and members of ecclesial lay movements at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Tirana.
She recounted that when she was very young, she felt "the call of the Lord without knowing yet what it meant to be a religious sister." She lived with her parents and was an only child, and thanks to the prayers and help of an uncle who was a priest, she was able to begin her vocational journey.
Sr. Maria joined the convent of the Franciscan Stigmatine Sisters for seven years, but the Communist regime forced her to leave and return home to her parents to help her uncle, the priest, who was in prison. He is now being considered for sainthood.
Upon her parents death, Sr. Maria was alone and learned "to keep the faith alive in the hearts of the faithful, although secretly."
She recalled one time that she was coming home from work and heard a voice from behind.
"It was a woman with a baby girl in her arms who came running towards me and asked me to baptize her."
At that time still a lay Catholic, Sr. Maria "was afraid because I knew the woman was a Communist, and I told her I didn't have anything to baptize her with because we were on the road, but she expressed so much desire that she told me there as a canal with water nearby. I told her I didn't have anything to collect the water with, but she insisted that I baptized that child, and seeing her faith, I took off my shoe, which was made of plastic, and I filled it with water from the canal and baptized her."
The Albanian nun told Pope Francis about other blessings she received amidst the persecution.
"Thanks to the consent of the priests, I kept the Blessed Sacrament in a cabinet at my home and brought it to the sick and dying," she said.
Sr. Maria said she could not explain how she was able to persevere in her service as religious.
"When I think of it, I wonder how we were able to endure such terrible sufferings, but I know the Lord gave us strength, patience and hope," she emphasized.
"The Lord gave strength to those He called, if fact he has repaid me from all my sufferings here on earth," she continued, noting that after the Communist regime fell and the churches were reopened, she "had the fortune of becoming a religious, a desire shared by so many other priests and sisters."
"I have had the privilege to be with Your Holiness," Sr. Maria told Pope Francis, "and to ask for your blessing for me and for my priest uncle and for my Stigmatine Sisters, for the parish where I was born and where I have served to this day, for the bishops, priests, religious and for the entire Albanian people."