Looking back on my life, I realise that I have been in the mission in Japan for 54 years. I am Spanish and I also have Japanese nationality.
Sent to Japan in 1967 by our Superior General Mother Ste Agnès, I remember telling her: “the language is very difficult and I think I am not prepared for this mission”, but she replied: “the important thing is not what you do but what you are and you can share it in the new community where you go”.
I am going to tell you a bit about my little mission in one of the suburbs of the city of Maebashi where we have a community of 4 sisters. This community was founded about 36 years ago, mainly to help in a camp for Vietnamese refugees. Most of them have returned to society but a small group, due to psychological injuries, have remained in the centre.
I remember Mary of the Passion telling us that we must be attentive to the signs of the times. What was a refugee centre has become a home for the mentally ill, there are Vietnamese, Japanese and a Peruvian. I am still a volunteer in this centre where there is an atmosphere of brotherhood despite the shortcomings, and I feel that we are all united in the Spirit of Jesus. Words are not necessary, presence is enough.
The number of the mentally ill is increasing in this society, not only because of stress, but also because of the pandemic.
Attentive to the signs of the times, we also contribute to the care of our common home (Laudato Si’ ).
In the centre we mainly recycle: cardboard, newspapers, clothes, plastics etc., computers, used machinery, iron etc. The metals are separated and can be sold.
This work is done in a workshop where people from outside come to work, including the mentally ill and volunteers who come to help us.
Twice a week we open the recycling shop to welcome elderly people from the area who are feeling a bit lonely. Before the pandemic, we used to serve tea to people who wanted it, talk to them and listen to their problems.
The volunteers are good listeners and I make sure that the atmosphere is good. The sisters of the community also help in the centre.
I am very happy to be able to share my life with these people and I thank God for all that I have received and will continue to receive from them…
On Sundays I also go to the parish and help with the pastoral care of migrants from Latin America. Here too there are many problems, but they are solved together. The pandemic has made us experience a greater fraternity… It seems that we are all united by an invisible thread which is the Spirit of Christ. I am really happy to share my life with these brothers and sisters.
“Like clay in the hands of the potter, so are you in my hand”.
Maria Santos (Maria Akatsuki) fmm