Thursday, November 15, 2012

Visit to Japan: Honoring the Benedictine Heritage

This week, it’s time to share what S. Olivia Forster and S. Colleen Haggerty did during their two weeks in Japan.

The following notes were submitted by S. Colleen shortly after returning to the US. It’s clear that their time there was more than just a vacation. The activities planned for the Sisters show how much their Benedictine heritage means to the people of Muroran and how deeply they continue to honor the connection.

S. Colleen writes:

One of the special gifts during this time in Japan was being with our Sisters at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, Muroran, an independent monastery whose roots spring from Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph. Many of our Sisters here in Minnesota know a number of them in Japan (some of whom spent years in formation and study here), so renewing friendships and memories was a GREAT GIFT of these TWO WEEKS.

ACTVITIES during the two-week stay:

• Major event - Recognition of S. Olivia at the high school, Kaisei Gakuin (formerly St. Benedict's High School)
    o Tree planting ceremony
    o All-school convocation - S. Olivia addressed assembly; flowers given to both of us--customary        
       to honor guests!
    o Small group of English speaking students given 15 minutes to ask questions/answers-- in English
    o Tour of school
    o Reception--tea and cakes with English Club students (about 15)
    o Formal tea ceremony by students learning the art from an alum who comes weekly
    o Yearbooks shared with visiting group and some students
    o At least 12-15 alums came throughout the afternoon for ceremony and to greet S. Olivia

• Tour of Muroran City – view of Pacific Ocean; every hill, mountain and high point of the area; tour of one Catholic Church in Muroran (one at each end of city)

• Afternoon social time with many Japanese courses at the home of Toshiaki Sugawara (head teacher at school) and his wife Mineko; unusual invitation as most Japanese families do not easily invite people into their homes. Mineko is an accomplished musician -- piano and voice; has many parts in operas; she entertained us with many selections. Two of the Japanese sisters accepted the invitation.

• Tour of JWS -- Japanese Steel Works—one of the main industries of the city; included the museum of sword manufacturing; observed the “making” of a hand-crafted sword

• Reception-- tea ceremony at the school on Saturday afternoon with alumnae. Many attended.

• Public concert in city hall on Saturday evening by the daughter of an alum, former student of S. Olivia; were fortunate to attend

• Reception at the Catholic Church at East Muroran on Sunday after Mass; good Catholic people; tribute to S. Olivia and to American Sisters: speeches, light lunch; choir performed with Mineko Sugawara directing.

• On Monday afternoon, tea ceremony at the home of a professional tea ceremony teacher whose daughter had performed at Saturday’s concert.

• Gathering of alums-- three former students (and Mitsuo Takada, former principal at Kasei Gakuin) in Tokyo Narita Airport during our four-hour layover there on Tuesday, October 16; had hoped for more to attend but a workday for many. Over 40 alums in the Tokyo area.

• Many one-on-one visits to and from friends--personal and school-connected; each one carrying gifts (o-miyage) of flowers, candy and Japanese treats or small gift.

From Observations and Notes, collected by Colleen Haggerty, OSB

Japan, October 2-17, 2012

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