REGIONAL ENCOUNTER-JAPAN

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“What time is it now in Bangladesh?” I asked. They answered, “It’s 6:00 a.m.” Oh, they have not yet taken breakfast! “Where are you?” asked the Provincial, Sr. Lynn Falsis. There was a bit of confusion in time configuration. “Hi!!!! Long time no see!”, several sisters said in chorus. “The reception is weak. Transfer to another location.” That was how we started our Regional Gathering held last March 22, 2021, via ZOOM application.

             We did not know what to expect. Will everything be in English? What about those hard of hearing? Sr. Lynn said, “I’m quite nervous!” It was her first Regional Encounter of this kind with us. With her was the Provincial Council, the Juniors and Sister-speakers coming from different mission places. “Will we be able to bring the message across?”

            Then it started. The Provincial explained the objectives of the Encounter, the 3- year Plan of the Province - the same contents as the Regional Encounters held earlier on different dates in the Philippines. But this time, she was speaking in Spanish! Then, for Opening Prayer, the familiar song, “Amazing Grace” was shown in video, sang by 50 nationalities, in different languages, including Japanese. Then came the talk of Sr. Cecile Solis on “The Economy of Francis” and she too was speaking all throughout in Spanish! Using a very well prepared power point, her presentation was very inclusive, presenting even some slides about economics in Japan and sharing of youth from Spain, Brazil and Argentina (where some of our sisters in Japan come from!). Then we broke into our respective groups to share our reflections. “What struck you in the talk on the Economy of Francis? In what ways in daily life could we put those principles in concrete?” Afterwards each group reported a summary of their answers. Almost all shared, in Spanish.

            The afternoon was devoted to sharing of Ministries with the Poor. Unlike the other Regional Encounters in which there were a lot of variety of Ministries shared, this time only three were presented - the Bangladesh Ministry in the villages, Ministry in accompanying poor communities in El Salvador and their Housing Project. It was amazing to hear our younger sisters share in Spanish, see many pictures that spoke more than words. In between presentations, there was three minutes of silence, which was very helpful for the sisters to absorb what they have seen and heard, go over their printed notes, translated beforehand so they would have an idea of what was being discussed. And the surprise? Srs. Rose Remigio and Marianita Teñoso, formerly members of the community of Japan were called and joined us!

       “I thought our work in El Salvador was only helping in the Shrine!” How do you select recipients for the Housing Project?” “I went to Bangladesh ten years ago. Is life in the countryside better now?” The sharing was animated, one triggering another. A great joy? Some Japanese sisters spoke in Spanish, others thru a translator. One comment, in its simplicity, said it all. “I am truly grateful that I have received the vocation of an Hija de Jesus, that there are sisters very much inserted in the reality of their people and are committed to their work. It is very important we share Jesus with others.”

       The Regional Encounter ended with a very inspiring message from Sr. Lynn. “The Economy of Francis is very much related to our Determinations on Evangelical Poverty and our vows… We have to discover the richness of our Province in the midst of our diminishing numbers… We have sisters working in other ministries aside from schools…Three essential things – solidarity, collaboration, growth in our vocation…” Addressing the elderly sisters, she said, “The experience of infirmity makes us aware of our vulnerability, makes us more humane. Let us accept it as a grace, not an impediment,.. Today, there are a lot to thank the Lord!”

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       Looking back at the experience, indeed there was much to thank the Lord. What was engraved in our hearts aside from the MESSAGE received was how much effort the sisters exerted to prepare the Regional Encounter in such a way that the Japanese sisters could understand/resonate better the presentations. The details of thoughtfulness was all throughout – the tedious work of translations, the choice of songs, the preparations of videos and powerpoints, the effort to speak in Spanish, the idea to invite sisters who once shared our life here in Japan, etc. The atmosphere was so familial too – the banter in-between breaks, the sharing of virtual snacks,,, The end part of the Encounter was no less – Sr. Vicky Lim, one of the Provincial Councilors made her Closing Remarks in Japanese! Someone said she practiced for several days, even in her dreams!

No one wanted to leave the ZOOM Meeting even if it was already past 6;00 p.m. Japanese time!