Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Fukushima nuns take in orphans
Disaster-hit schools reach out to orphaned childrenSakura no Seibo Gakuin Kindergarten was damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster
- ucanews.com special correspondent, Fukushima
- June 9, 2011
Run by the Catholic Congregation de Notre-Dame, the groupâs schools range from kindergarten to a junior college, but during the earthquake on March 11 the damage to the kindergarten rendered it unusable. Now, classes are temporarily being held at the Sakura no Seibo Gakuin Elementary School instead.
As of mid-May, around 20 of the original 125 children at the kindergarten enrolled for this year were still unable to attend classes, while two more had left the school altogether. Some of the elementary schoolâs original 265 students are also missing: six have withdrawn and 27 are on extended leave. These absences heighten financial pressure on the schools, as no school fees are coming from the families of absent children.
Sister Kimiko Kawada, principal of the kindergarten and elementary school, said, âWe havenât been able to decide when we should start repairs on the kindergarten, as weâre thinking about the radiation problem and the possibility of more earthquakes. I have been principal for 27 years, but the path ahead is more painfully uncertain now than it has ever been.â
The Seibo no Sakura Gakuin junior college finally managed to hold its entrance ceremony on May 10, a month later than originally scheduled. The tsunami killed one of the 184 enrolled students and swept away the homes of 11 others, whose tuition and fees are now being covered entirely by the school.
Many problems remain. The college has yet to secure substitute teachers to replace foreign faculty members who resigned and returned home fearing nuclear contamination. It also must work out financial arrangements for tuition, materials and book fees, and whatâs best for students who suffered most during the disaster.
At the combined junior high and high school, seven students transferred to other schools, while six were added. The latter came from other areas that suffered more devastation; they were supplied with school uniforms by graduates and have received scholarships from the school itself.
Despite these strained circumstances, the Congregation de Notre-Dame, in collaboration with the schools, initiated a foster family system on May 23 to provide new homes for minors who have lost their families.
For all the orphans, Sakura no Seibo Gakuin will provide a place to learn; additionally, school personnel and other volunteers will serve as foster families. Plans are also under way to open part of the congregationâs convent so that the sisters can offer âparentingâ themselves.
As it happens, the Congregation de Notre-Dame has a history of taking in orphans; after World War II, the convent became home to 16 war orphans from Tokyo and other places. These children were the reason for the establishment of what is today Sakura no Seibo Gakuin Elementary School.
Sister Kayoko Shibata, acting president of the junior college, described the establishment of the foster family program as follows:
âWe hear that there are 18 children in Fukushima Prefecture alone who lost their families to the disaster. If you include Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, they say there are more than 100. We have an urgent responsibility to ensure that these children can reach independence and have a future. We as a convent want to return to where we started, taking in the orphans of this disaster and raising them.â