THE first Jesuit priest to land in Japan has paved the way for a new chapel dedicated to miraculous events that occurred near the island nation’s town of Akita.
The Confraternity of Our Lady of Akita is in the process of building a chapel for Our Lady of Akita at Marian Valley in the Gold Coast hinterland.
It will be the first chapel dedicated to the Japanese Marian devotion and will be located next to the chapel dedicated to St Francis Xavier, built by the Brisbane Tongan community in 2012.
St Francis Xavier was the first Christian missionary to preach and baptise in Japan, landing in Kagoshima in 1549, more than 400 years before the Marian apparition in Akita.
A spokeswoman for the confraternity said St Francis had answered the prayers of many Japanese and Australian Catholics who wanted to honour Our Lady of Akita in Brisbane.
“I like him because he loved the Japanese people and he went there to preach and baptised many people,” the spokeswoman said.
“I knew the saint would intercede for this particular intention, and I visited his chapel quite a few times and asked him to look after the project.
“When the site was allocated next to his chapel, we were so happy.
“Thank you, St Francis.”
Pauline Father Anthony David blessed the foundation stone for the chapel on February 6 this year.
The chapel is expected to be completed by September 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Marian title associated with the miraculous and supernatural events that occurred in Akita.
In 1973, Our Lady appeared to a humble novice who had entered the convent of the Handmaids of the Holy Eucharist in Yuzawadai on the outskirts of Akita in Japan’s Niigata diocese and established by its bishop, Bishop John Shojiro Ito.
Sr Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa entered the convent on May 12, 1973, having suffered extreme paralysis of the body for 16 years.
When she entered she was also diagnosed with incurable deafness in both ears.
One month after entering the convent she saw “a brilliant light” shine forth from the tabernacle in her community’s chapel.
She reported her experience to Bishop Ito, who requested she keep silent about the visions, adding that such phenomena could happen as evident at Fatima but “in your case we do not know exactly what this may be”.
Soon after, Sr Sasagawa received the stigmata on the palm of her left hand.
In June the deaf sister received a visit from her guardian angel, who told her that Mary’s wounds were deeper than her agonising stigmata and implored her to pray in the chapel.
As she knelt down to pray before a wooden statue of Our Lady it came to life.
Our Lady promised that Sr Agnes’ deafness would be healed and asked her to “pray very much for the pope, bishops and priests”.
Our Lady appeared to Sr Sasagawa three times in 1973, making her final appearance on October 13, the 56th anniversary of the miraculous dancing of the sun in Fatima, Portugal.
Our Lady repeated her Fatima plea for Catholics to pray for sinners.
She also warned that the devil would infiltrate the Church “in such a way that one will see cardinals against cardinals, bishops against other bishops”, priests with Marian devotions persecuted and altars sacked and destroyed.
All these events were recorded in a diary written by Sr Sasagawa, which she confided to Bishop Ito.
Following the apparitions, a group of sisters including Sr Sasagawa and a priest saw the wooden statue in the sisters’ convent begin to weep.
Bishop Ito also witnessed the miraculous event, and personally wiped away the tears from the statue.
The lachrymation occurred 101 times between 1975 and 1981, ending on September 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
After rigorous scientific investigations the tears were proven to be human bodily fluid.
Sr Agnes’ hearing was restored in full on May 30, 1982.
The local ordinary of Akita at the time, Bishop Ito, was given authority by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate the matter and in his final pastoral letter penned in 1984 he authorised the veneration of Our Lady of Akita throughout his diocese.
The letter was given to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later to become Pope Benedict XVI) who allowed it to be disseminated to the faithful and, while he did not give any judgement about its reliability or credibility, gave no objections to the conclusions in the letter.
These events were published in a book by Fr Teiji Yasuda titled The Tears and Message of Mary, which is available at Marian Valley.
According to the Council of Trent, a local bishop is the first and main authority on claims of apparitions, and Holy See approval is not required for it to be considered authentic.
Belief in a private revelation, including through apparitions, is not a requirement of the faithful.
Marian Valley has honoured Our Lady of Akita with a Mass on September 15 since 2012 with support from Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green, when he was rector of Marian Valley.
The spokeswoman for the confraternity said the chapel of Our Lady of Akita at Marian Valley would be octagonal in shape, representing the eighth sorrow of the Blessed Mother, that souls reject her Son, which has caused her present day tears.
“The message is not just for Japan, but for all nations,” the spokeswoman said.