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Hamamatsu Pastoral center

Salesians bring cheer to Brazilians in Japan

special correspondent, Tokyo

June 21 2010

The large Japanese-Brazilian community in Japan’s Hamamatsu City has received a welcome boost with the opening of a new pastoral center.

It and other foreign communities have faced hardships from a biting recession.

The new 385-square-meter center, a joint project by the Salesian Society and Yokohama diocese, is run by the Salesians and adjoins the church in Hamamatsu City in Shizouka Prefecture.

It also fulfills a decade-old dream of Evaristo Higa, a 59-year old Japanese-Brazilian Salesian priest.

It comprises a large hall which can be used as a gymnasium for youths or as a meeting place and five classrooms.

"The pastoral center is for everyone, but because of the great number of foreign residents in Hamamatsu, I think it will be used largely by them," said Bishop Rafael Masahiro Umemura of Yokohama.

It was opened on May 30 during a ceremony attended by the Brazilian ambassador to Japan and vice-consul from the Brazilian Consulate General in Hamamatsu. About 500 people affiliated with the diocese or the Salesians also attended.

The opening comes amid ongoing efforts by the local church to help children of Japanese-Brazilian families who are faced with the closure of local Brazilian schools as a result of the recession. Many parents can't even afford to send their children to these schools.

The center has already hosted religious classes for children of both Japanese and other nationalities. Among its other uses are training in four languages, catechism study, and middle/high school gatherings.

"I hope the center is used so that those people in need can learn to their hearts content," Bishop Umemura said.

According to the Hamamatsu City government, there are about 16,500 Japanese-Brazilians in the city (2009). The total population of Hamamatsu is about 825,000.

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