Thursday, November 1, 2012

Visit to Japan: The High School

Two of our Sisters, Olivia Forster, OSB (left), and Colleen Haggerty, OSB (below right), recently visited Japan, and there’s quite a story behind their visit. Every Thursday during November, we’re going to share something of their journey with you, based on the observations and notes collected by S. Colleen and approved by S. Olivia.

First of all a little background: the reason they made the visit was because S. Olivia was principal at a high school in Muroran, Hokkaido, Japan. The high school was begun by our Sisters in 1960, and has flourished for over 52 years. Following the leadership of S. Benedice Schulte, who built the new school, S. Olivia became the second principal, and remained in Japan for 20 years. The history of the school is recognized by the current leadership. S. Colleen reports that their effort to recognize the Benedictines, and Sister Olivia in particular, was VERY evident during this two-week visit.

The school, now named Kaisei Gakuin High School ("Star of the Sea" High School), is one of 11 Catholic High Schools in Japan. At its height, there were 500+ students enrolled; this year there are 175. Most of the students are not Catholic. The present principal is Kenji Kagawa, and the vice-principal/head teacher is Toshiaki Sugawara whose wife, Mineko, is a soprano opera singer. The staff includes two Catholic teachers of English: Jack Brodowski, an American who has lived in Japan for 11 years, and is married with two children, and Hiroshi Yamane who is married with two children. A third English teacher is another American, Matt Benscoter. Even though most of the students are not Catholic, these men work together very well to promote the school as a Catholic school.

Next week, we’ll share how an act of great generosity enabled S. Olivia and S. Colleen to travel to Japan.

Adapted from OBSERVATIONS AND NOTES collected by Sister Colleen Haggerty as she accompanied Sister Olivia Forster on a “gift” trip to Japan - October 2-16, 2012.

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