Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Experiencing Japan: Impressions of a First Time Visitor

In November, we ran  a series of blogs about the experience of Sisters Olivia Foster and Colleen Haggerty when they visted Japan recently. Another Sister, Kerry O'Reilly, also recently traveled to Japan. Today, she shares some reflections on her experience as a first-time visitor to Japan.

Hakucho Bridge

I was privileged to travel to Japan on community business. It was a first time for me so I was excited to meet the Sisters I knew only from our monastic history and to see this beautiful country. My long trip ended in being welcomed by the Sisters at St. Benedict's Monastery in Muroran, Hokkaido, in northern Japan.

Japan is an island. Creative use of space is required for living within this limited land area with a large population. The Sisters have an innovative monastery only a couple blocks long that is built up rather than out, with levels and half levels and every corner used.

When I experienced the Hakucho Bridge, a large suspension bridge connecting the northeast mainland to a smaller island, I reflected on perspective. From a distance the Hakucho Bridge is a beautiful, gleaming white structure; drawing nearer, there comes an understanding of how immense it is. Driving on it, going up and up, is a thrill.

The Monastery
One might say the Sisters are a bridge as they live their monastic life within this port city. From afar, in their high up monastery, they may seem removed. Up closer, it easy to see how this community with its stability and hospitality are connectors in a Buddhist country with an estimated one tenth of 1% of the population Christian . When living with this community, the mutual support in seeking God offers a picture of a praying, caring community.

The Sisters pray several times a day, welcome all who come to the door and walk with the local parish community. Since the tsunami, they are taking turns spending time in the city of Miyako, in the southern part of Japan, offering help where the disastrous earthquake and tsunami took place. This city has been dedicated as a place of rest and recuperation for people as they slowly recover from this life-changing and country-altering calamity. In this enormous change for the people of Japan, the Benedictines of Muroran again bring their prayer and presence.

I was so excited to go to Japan – and it was perfect!

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