The “8 C’s of my Faith Journey in Japan”

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”   -Melody Beattie-

1.index community hayam     

     The year 2020 has a lot of God’s surprises for me! It was in January that I was informed to collaborate and reinforce our mission for two and a half months in Hayama where our elderly and infirmed Sisters are.

Since Sr. Yoli Brandolin is on a family visit in Argentina, the community needed extra hands and feet. If things go well, this ‘experimental sendoff is a “ first” as I was told. I took it well telling myself that if God wills it, so be it! Lo and behold!

Everything went well and I was given a short stay visa good for three months by the government of Japan. With a grateful heart let me unlock the meaningful, purposeful and enriching experiences I had during an extended five-month stay which I would like to sum up as the “8 C’s of my Faith Journey in Japan”.

 

 

1st COMMON LIFE WITH THE SISTERS

 

 In the midst of the winter season February 12, 2020 to be exact, I was warmly welcomed by the Sisters of Japan majority of whom I met for the first time. The pervading atmosphere of warmth, sincerity, hospitality has made me feel at home; after all we are a family.

In retrospection, there is something to be thankful for the cancellation of my flight twice due to global travel bans. Consequently, it has given me opportune time to be with the Sisters for a longer period and joined their communal prayers, Sunday Mass live streaming on line, some weekdays of private celebration of the Eucharist, meals and recreation wherein I got to know them better and to be at their service while Sr.Yoli is stranded in Argentina.

 

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Communal prayer                                                       Birthday celebration of Sr. Kaneko   

                                   

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Hayama Sisters preparing the ‘Ume’ Jam. It is a  fleshy yellow fruit, similar to an apricot but having a sour flavour, used mainly to make drinks, preserves, and sauces. 

 

To witness the Sisters’ spirit of service and availability despite their physical limitations (their poverty) that are age and health related - was truly animating and inspiring. In addition, it was admirable and humbling to note the Sisters’ expression of their sense of gratitude, thankfulness and appreciation even for the simplest or smallest thing done for them by saying spontaneously “Arigatou”,Thank you; “Doumo arigatou” Thanks a lot; Arigatou gozaimasu /Arigatou gozaimashita,Thank you (this is more polite).

 

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Rosary Bracelet making

The entirety of our consecrated life as a mission echoed throughout my stay with the elderly and the infirmed Sisters of Hayama. Being with them was a constant invitation to reflect more deeply on the quality, motivation and the kind of presence I offered them.

 

2nd CHALLENGES AND IMPACT OF THE NOVEL CORONA VIRUS 19 IN THE COMMUNITY

 

During the state of emergency in Japan, the government implemented the prohibition of public Mass celebrations and other religious activities to ensure the safety and avoidance of getting infected, hence we hear Sunday mass online via live streaming. This is one thing to be thankful to technology that we were able to participate in mass. The community gradually learned to adapt itself to this new reality - the new normal.

One of the tough challenges in one’s everyday life is the sense of fear of getting infected by this dreaded illness. Besides doing conscientiously the health protocol or the precautionary measures to avoid contracting the virus, one undeniably powerful act is the fervent prayer of the Community for safety and protection of everyone especially for the frontliners and vulnerables.

In these trying and uncertain times, with the unseen, borderless enemy soaring high and sowing fright, we are called to lean on God, hope in Him and have faith in Him alone.

3rd COMMUNION WITH GOD AND HIS CREATION

 

 Pope Francis says that we have to recover our personal space that is needed to carry on a heartfelt dialogue with God. Hayama is on the countryside and the place of the Sisters is a quiet residential area which is conducive to reconnect with God through prayer or just be absorbed by beauty of nature all around.

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CHERRY BLOSSOMS (SAKURA) in our kindergarten school entrance

The experience of communing in nature and being immersed by its beauty has left a lasting, indelible mark giving me a deep appreciation for the beauty of God’s creation and a deep sense of gratitude to God as Creator.

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Morito Beach 

 

Furthermore, I realized that at times when we are so enamored with technology and so absorbed by work and responsibilities, there’s always this tendency to get distracted and lose our sense of wonder for God’s Creation. Likewise, we failed to see or hear the cries of our Mother Earth and the wounded humanity. Surely, we would miss the urging of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si- to care for our Common Home.

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4th CREATIVITY UNLOCKED IN A STAY AT HOME ENVIRONMENT

 

The outbreak of the Novel COVID- 19 and the declaration of the state of emergency in Japan had generated a lot of challenges and newness in everyone’s life. The possibility of living a sedentary life, negativities and known devastating effects of this global pandemic has made me reflect on some possible ways on how to - live a quality, productive and enhanced life with a positive outlook amid the global pandemic .

Aside from spiritual duties of personal prayer, reflection, faith sharing on fichas, I engaged myself in nature walk, sightseeing, gardening, baking, marketing, cleaning, teaching the Sisters to make rosary bracelets, watching news and documentaries.

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"The ultimate leche flan" ... Bread pudding ...  banana carrot bread

 

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pancit bihon . . .   Birthday cake for Sr. Flor Florece  . . .    birthday cake for Sr. Kaneko       

           

As a result, it has led to sprouts of learning experiences, growth in the spirit of service and availability, sensitivity to the needs of the community, bonding time with the Sisters and oneness in spirit and prayer with those who are affected by this global pandemic.

 

5th CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME AND CONNECTIVITY

 

In Hayama, organic gardening became a personal response to the Pope’s call to care for our Common Home. Aside from fun and enjoyment organic gardening offers, it is beneficial in reducing chemicals that are detrimental to health and to the environment. But what was fulfilling was to see the vegetable seedlings’ growth process until harvested and found its way to the kitchen for the Sisters’ consumption.

  

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Cucumber  ...                   Tomatoes   ...               Lettuce

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Lettuce seedlings ...                              potatoes

 

It was a delight ‘to see and taste the goodness of the Lord!’ Taking care of plants, watering, trimming, reviving the dying ornamental potted plants , cutting grasses became a favorite past time since I love being close to nature. And what was more exciting, entertaining and fun was to see cute squirrels climbing, gliding, and feeding on seeds and nuts in the trees while I was gardening one day. At times, doing gardening was surprising and frightening especially by the sight of snakes crossing my path or a crow that suddenly flew just a hairline away from my head that I could feel the wind beneath its flapping wings! They were successful in getting my attention and making their presence felt as part of God’s creation. More importantly, it was a ‘grace’ to see the parallelism of gardening to my spiritual journey and experienced interconnectedness in the web of life.

 

6th COGNIZANT OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE IN OTHERS

 

One of the benefits of my extended stay was to have an astonishing glimpse of the religious, cultural, economic and political aspects of the Japanese people and the history surrounding them. I had the opportunity to visit a few of the Shinto and Buddhist Temples when the state of emergency was lifted by the government. During my visits to these temples, it was a joy to observe similarities with some rituals performed by the worshippers with our own religious rituals.

SHINTO AND BUDDHIST SHRINES

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                                                                                           worshippers and visitors put                                                                                              and burn incense (osenko)                                                                                              into the large incense burner                                                                                         and fan some smoke towards                                                                                                   oneself as the smoke is                                                                                               believed to have healing power.

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Meiji Shrine, Shibuya, Tokyo, the Shinto shrine                                                                                       that is dedicated to the deified spirits of                                                                                                  Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.

 

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On the other hand, it necessitates ‘respect’ for whatever differences they have with our faith practices. But one thing sure is that there is always this beauty and richness in every religion. Moreover, I have come to appreciate the Japanese culture, national costume, facial structures, music, food, apparel and language. It was an amazing God‘s gift to experience and see the beauty the Creator has given us with the beauty of other people. Indeed the Father’s work is beautiful!

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Ready to slurp Tokyo’s Ramen          Japan Bento boxes

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Kamakura Chacha – the creamy,                                                                         delicious green tea ice cream…ready for a lick!,  and   SUSHI

7th CULTIVATING PRACTICE OF PATIENCE AND CALMNESS

The global imposition of travel bans and restrictions has caused the cancellation of my trip bound for Manila twice. During those times, it was not easy to deal with my thoughts and emotions. Through prayer and reflection, God continually assured and reassured me to trust His perfect timing that brings forth tranquility of heart, mind and spirit. Thus, from a seemingly negative experience, it became transformative, an opportunity to learn to cultivate practice of patience and calmness – not to be troubled by life’s sudden changes, delays, of letting go of things beyond my control and learned to live with lesser stress, frustrations and disappointments.

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St. Mary's Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tokyo.

 

 

8th CULTIVATING A HEART OF GRATITUDE

Jean Baptiste Massieu, the famous deaf educator, made a statement that is now considered a French proverb: "Gratitude is the memory of the heart."This is consoling to know- for my heart is filled with gratitude to God our Father whose love is steadfast; to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to St. Candida for their motherly intercessions; to the Congregation and to the Indico-Pacific Province for the privileged experience of collaboration in our mission in Hayama and to all the Sisters who accompanied me in spirit and prayer. Last but not the least, to the Sisters of Japan for becoming a part of my spiritual journey and for making beautiful ‘memories’together. Memories like these never fade. ありがとうございました
Arigatou gozaimashita.

 

                          “I will praise You with all my heart,

glorify Your name forever, Lord my God.”

-Psalm 86:12-