A PRAYER that “this spring and flowering of the cherry blossoms will inspire the people of Japan to look to the future” has been offered by the leader of an Australian religious congregation with a community based in the country’s south.
Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon offered the prayer as people in the earthquake and tsunami-devastated country struggled to face the reality of more than 20,000 deaths and the additional threat of radiation from damaged nuclear reactors.
The Good Samaritan community is based in Nara about 380km south-west of Tokyo.
March 11’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake followed by a 10m-high tsunami that swept away entire cities and towns struck Japan’s north-east coast so did not directly impact on the community.
However, Sr Condon noted the congregation, Australia’s first “home grown” community of religious women, had first become established in Japan in 1948 to help in the reconstruction of Nagasaki which had been devastated by the 1945 atomic bomb.
“The sisters were moved then by the people’s strong will to rebuild and to improve on their lives despite the desolation that surrounded them,” she said.
“As a congregation we will pray that this strong will continues for the people of north-eastern Japan as they begin to rebuild their lives.”
Australia’s Salesian Mission Office director Br Michael Lynch said, although none of the order’s communities were located in areas worst hit by the tsunami in Japan’s north-east, there was a strong Salesian connection to the region.
“Bishop Mizobe, a Salesian, was Bishop of Sendai (the largest city near the earthquake epicentre) from 2000 until 2004,” he said.
Br Lynch said he had learnt through the Salesian News Service an emergency centre had been set up by the Japanese bishops in Sendai city after their March 16 meeting there.
“The emergency centre is being led by Caritas Japan,” he said.
“The Salesian family (the priests and brothers, the sisters, teachers and students) are gathering necessities and other relief goods, especially food for people in the Sendai diocese.
“These goods are being sent via Caritas Japan.”
The Salesian News Service also indicated efforts to assist damaged regions in the north were being hampered by a lack of information.
“Catholics make up 0.15 per cent of the population of the prefecture that is covered by Sendai diocese,” the service noted.
“There are some 11,000 Catholics in the diocese who were in 56 parishes before the earthquake and tsunami struck. “It remains to be seen how many of those parishes have effectively survived.”
Meanwhile, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Philip Wilson has sent a message of support to Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan president Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga.
The message assures his counterpart that “on behalf of myself and the bishops and people of Australia that since the first moment we heard this news that you and your people have been consistently in our prayers”.
“We pray that at this time our Lord grants you peace and strength,” Archbishop Wilson wrote.
“Please be assured of our ongoing prayer support and any practical assistance you might need.”
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