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
Kindergarten aids disaster victims
Catholic-run school acts as center of relief operations in ruined quake cityParents and guardians look at items provided by relief organizations to Kesennuma Catholic Kindergarten
- May 5, 2011
Current students, teachers and parents clapped out a cadence as the new students entered the kindergartenâs auditorium. The principal gave them a warm welcome.
âWe have all been looking forward to having you join us,â Father Takashi Aizu of Sendai diocese told them.
Some of the new intake cried a little during the ceremony, but Toshiko Komatsu, who has worked at the kindergarten for over 30 years and now serves as vice-principal, said with a smile, âThis normal event is important, especially at this time.â
Kesennuma City, in northern Miyagi Prefecture, was devastated on March 11. The city, whose population had been 74,000 at the end of February, lost at least 884 people as a result of the 9.0 magnitude quake and resulting tsunami. As of the end of April, more than 5,700 people were still living in temporary evacuation centers throughout the city.
The kindergartenâs closing ceremony for the previous school year had been scheduled for March 15 and was delayed until the end of the month; one child who was to graduate was never found following the disasters.
Of the 61 children who attend the kindergarten, three were absent and one was attending despite living in an emergency shelters. Many more were getting by staying with relatives.
On that fateful day on March 11, some children were waiting at the kindergarten for parents to pick them up when the earthquake and tsunami struck, while others had already gone home by school bus. After staff sent the last children home with their families, they made their way through streets choked with rubble to emergency shelters, searching for the children who had left earlier to make sure they were safe.
Although electricity, gas, and water were still cut, the kindergarten resumed providing some childcare services, which it has customarily offered when the school was not in session.
âWe have been staying at my parentsâ house since the quake, but it was a godsend for [my son to be able to go to the kindergarten] to play, even though he had only just enrolled and the school year hadnât started yet,â said one mother, Kano Sato.
At last, relief supplies started trickling into the kindergarten, and the first thoughts the teachers, including vice-principal Komatsu, had were the faces of the homeless they had seen.
To help these people, they began going round the emergency shelters handing out supplies.
After a while, people started coming to the kindergarten themselves to seek provisions.
âWe were really more concerned with distributing supplies than with preparing for the new school term,â said Komatsu.
The reason the school became so central to local relief efforts was that âthe kindergarten knew all the families and had had a special connection with the neighborhood for more than 60 years since its founding,â explained Father Aizu.
After the opening ceremony, the pupilsâ parents and guardians were urged to help themselves to whatever relief materials they needed. Aid workers had provided clothingâincluding hair accessories for girlsâand other sundries, along with a request to parents: âPlease dress them up nicely for their first day at school.â
One mother,Â Chikumi Hatakeyama, said: âAt the closing ceremony on March 27, there was really nothing anyone could say. We were in the darkâno electricity or water. But just when we adults found it impossible to return to our normal lives, our children made things better just by doing it for us.â
Miki Ishikawa, mother of another toddler at the school, agreed: âEveryday life has begun again. I think itâs wonderful.â