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THE ORDER OF THE PIOUS SCHOOLS THE PIARIST FATHERS IN ASIA

Japan So Far Away

Japan
History
Tobe Parish Church
Yokkaichi Parish Church
Komaba Chapel & Convent
Schools in Japan
Missionaries
Contacts

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) hit hardly the Pious Schools in Spain, leaving more than 250 Religious Martyrs. But immediately later on came a period of great vocational harvest; and in 1947, the casualties had already been replaced and in the five Spanish Provinces there was a great harvest of young Piarists.

 

The Second World War (1939-1945) hit also hardly the already battered Italian and Center-European Provinces. But for the last ones, the worst was still to come: the Communist control and the religious persecution and severe limitation of activities. In Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania, the Piarists were ready to suffer great difficulties since 1947. The Italian and Austrian Provinces were in decadence since the beginning of the century.

 

Japan had been hardly defeated by USA and in 1947 it was an occupied country. Many Japanese accepted the defeat with serenity and became pacifists understanding that they had to open to the Western values, included the religion. It was a time of conversion to Catholicism.

 

In 1947, the Pious Schools were mainly in Europe, but its presence was already great in America: the Argentine Vice-Province depended form Aragon Province (Spain) and there were 5 houses; In Cuba-Mexico, depending from Catalonian Province (Spain), there were 7 houses in Cuba, two Parishes recently founded near Los Angeles (USA) and a strong will of going back to Mexico. There was also a house in Santiago de Chile (Chile), depending from Vasconia Province (Spain).

 

That year of 1947, after the European normality was restored following the war, was held the 36 General Chapter of the Order of the Pious Schools, when was elected General Superior Fr. Vincent Tomek, from the Hungary Province. The Pope was Pius XII that had animated the Religious Institutes to increase their missionary spirit. The Piarists were asked, also, to increase their educational works in Latin-America. 

 

 The Order, and concretely the Spanish Provinces, accepted with good spirit those invitations. In reality, in the III session of the Chapter, celebrated on September 1, 1947, was approved by 32 favorable votes of the 38 present, the first preposition that was like this:

 

“The General Chapter, with the free consent of different Provinces, establishes that our Order, as the opportunities and the necessities of the Provinces would allow, to offer to the Holy See to accept properly said missions in pagan territories, to be directed according to the Calasanzian spirit; having in mind this, those works will be dedicated in a preference way, to the proper ministry of our Institute. Regarding the way of choosing those missions and in determining the juridical statutes, if they would be under the direct jurisdiction of Fr. General, remains to the decision of Fr. General and his Congregation”.

 

It was clear that the Order wanted to be present in missionary territories.

 

1.     First negotiations

 

The desire was not new. The same Founder already considered the foundations in Center-Europe, with the present of many Protestants, as missionary works. Later on, while the Aragon Piarist Fr. Basilio Sancho was Archbishop of Manila (1767-1787), he tried to establish a stable community of Piarists in the Philippines, without getting it because of the monopoly of other missionary Religious Orders.

 

Fr. Federico Cao, from the Sardinia-Tuscany Province (1784-1852), asked permission to offer himself to Propaganda Fide as a missionary. He was sent to Burma in 1829 with the job of Apostolic Vicar of Ava and Pegu and the title of Bishop of Zana. After ten years he went back to Italy to give an account of his work, accompanied by two native young men aspiring to become priests. We do not know if he had intention of founding a Piarist Community in those lands. In fact, he could not go back to Burma because of the civil war that started in 1840.

 

The American foundations were not considered as properly missionary works, because they were carried out in Catholic cities from old, with an educational goal, the proper of the Institute.

 

The desire was old, therefore, but the opportunity was new. Fr. General, among many other urgent matters, took care seriously of it. At the end of 1948 went for the second time to Spain accompanying in its voyage the relics of Saint Joseph Calasanz. On December 2 of that year, he met the General Superior of the Piarist Sisters, Sr. Pilar de Mingo, who communicated to him their desires of founding in Japan, invited by a Jesuit Father. She had the economic help form the Holy See and the collections that were carried out at schools. The Mother promised to inform the advance of the negotiations and that maybe could be given an opportunity to the Piarist Fathers.

 

During the same voyage, Fr. Feliciano Perez Altuna talked with Fr. General in two occasions: one in Sarria City, in December 1948; another one in Bilbao City, January 1949. Since he is going to become the founder of the Japanese Mission, it is worthy to stop a moment to say something about this Piarist Father.

 

Fr. Feliciano had been born in Tolosa City (Guipucoa Province, Spain), in 1905. He was a Priest since 1928 and after some years of being an educator in Tafalla and Logroņo Cities, he became, in the formation of the province (1933), a member of the Vasconia Province. Soon was nominated Master of Postulants and later on of Novices (1937-1946). He knew rather well the whole young generation of the Province. At that time, he was a Rector of Bilbao College, but he was burning with missionary fire. Fr. General realized it very well. Fr. Feliciano told Fr. Tomek that in Vasconia (it had not yet made any foundation outside the national territory and only the house of Orendain town in it) there was missionary spirit. Fr. General commented with Fr. Provincial of Vasconia, Fr.Juan Manuel Diez, his intention of starting with probability with Religious from the Vasconia Province the first missionary work. And here start two parallel-stories the Providence converges in one point: Yokohama

 

 

ROME

 

After returning to Rome, in February 1949, Fr. General receives the visit of a Hungarian Priest, a friend of the Piarists, Fr. Joseph Rokonai that communicated he was leaving his Diocese of Vac to be incardinated to the Diocese of Yokoahama, Japan.  Fr. General asked him to find out the possibilities of foundation.

 

On August 22, Fr. Rokonai wrote a letter to Fr. General expressing the desire of the Bishop Msgr. Tomas Wakita, offering the first opportunity. The Bishop offered his help to found a school where everything should be taught in Japanese. He said that there were only two or three Catholic Schools in the whole country where was taught in Japanese. This information was not correct. There were many more. . He said, also, it was necessary about 10000 dollars to have a house and a school with 8 Fathers and 1000 students. In fact, he had the offering of an old Buddhist school of 30000 dollars. He would pay half of it. Msgr. Wakita, as well as Fr. Rokonai, were thinking about Hungarian religious, because according to him, they would learn Japanese more easily. At the same time, they were giving some advises as how to arrange the foundation: two years to study Japanese  (while they would earn their living giving classes of English or French), later on they would hire Japanese teachers and after 10 years they would be able to take over the school.

 

The General Congregation studied the proposition and on October 15 (not before because the General Assistant for Spain was absent) sent his answer: it was impossible to send Hungarian Fathers, since they got permission to leave the country with difficulty, but rather Religious from Vasconia Province (Spain), the native land of Saint Francis Xavier. On the other hand, they were not able to have 15 thousand dollars, nor Religious that would be able to teach French or English in Japan. According to our tradition, we were asking the Bishop room for the Religious and a building for a free tuition school.

 

The Bishop answered on November 15, accepting that two or three Basque Religious would go to found, and while they would study Japanese, they could prepare the foundation of a school. About money, he did no say anything. Fr.Rokonai said that such a contract would be made when the Religious were in Japan. Besides that, he said that the Diocese used to give lodging to the two or three first missionaries; that they only had to pay the trip and the living. He informed, too, that the Bishop had answered just a few days before to Fr. Rafael Perez, Sch.P., in Irache (Navarra Province, Spain), and he wanted top know if it was the same initiative. The question took Fr. General by surprise and he decided to be in direct contact with the Fr. Provincial of Vasconia Province.

 

On December 3, the feast of Saint Francis Xavier, write to Fr. Provincial a letter where he communicates him the accord of the General Congregation taken during the session of October 14:

 

“That the first Province that would carry out our own ministry in pagan lands, that is to say, that would open schools, might be the one whose territory is the place where Saint Francis Xavier was born, that is to say, the Province of Vasconia (Spain). For our beloved Province, that is an honor and a weight (…).

 

The country where will be sent our Brothers will be, surely, Japan, where Saint Francis Xavier exercised his ministry. Probably, after finishing this school year, two or three Fathers will be sent to the Yokohama Diocese to study the language and to prepare the foundation of a school.

 

 

He also asks a list of voluntary missionaries, adding among other data: their knowledge of languages like French and English.

 

 

VASCONIA PROVINCE

 

The Vasconian Provincial started to do his own surveys. He used to rely very much upon another important person in this history: Fr. Rafael Perez-Azpeitia. This Father had been born in Aldea de la Poblacion (Navarra Province), in 1917. After entering the Order and finishing his studies, he was ordained as a priest in 1941. He was in Pamplona City (Navarra Province) from 1939 to 1949.  On June 30 of the same year, he was sent to Irache Inter-Provincial Junior Formation House (Navarra) as a Master of Juniors. In Irache, urged by the missionary spirit, was until 1958, when he was elected Provincial Superior of Vasconia Province.

 

While Fr. Rafael was arriving to Irache, the Bishop Wakida was making a calling through Fr. Francis Roka, from Madrid and incardinated to Yokohama Diocese, in Illuminare Missionary Magazine. Fr. Rafael, by the advice of Fr. Provincial, wrote a letter on October 26, 1949, offering the service of the Piarists of Vasconia. He had been also in contact with a Jesuit missionary from Navarra who was in Japan, Fr. Domezain.

 

On November 12, Bishop Wakita wrote to Fr. Rafael through Fr. Roca, asking him to send two Fathers to start the foundation and he spoke about the same Buddhist school that was available.

 

Fr. Provincial, with this answer at hand, was in situation of going on about the foundation and on December 2, 1949, together with the copy of the letter to Bishop Wakita- Fr.Roca, asks permission to found in Yokohama:

 

“I know that your Rev. Paternity has news that this Province of Vasconia, from its erection, was always animated of a great missionary impulse. Until now it was not possible to open a channel, but today, the circumstances are presented more favorable and already, from the beginning of my second three years period as Provincial, I had in mind to reach a reality in this course. I paid attention, of course, to Japan, as a missionary field: 1. Because it was evangelized by our Xavier. 2. Because the actual situation of that great empire is exceptionally favorable to the Catholic missions. 3. Because there, more than in any part, can be carried out our missionary labor with a Piarist character, as it was proposed and approved by the last General Chapter.”

   

He comments the negotiations carried out by Fr. Rafael and he tells him that he has already thought about two Fathers, both of 26 years and very capable: Frs. Pedro L. Perea and Andres Chavarri. The thing is still very secret: he has only talked with Fr. Rafael. He worries about the economic aspect, but God will provide.  He hopes to know the thinking of Fr. General.

 

As we can see, the letters were crossed. Fr. Provincial, with the best intention, has touched the field reserved for Fr. General. The thing becomes still more complicated when Bishop Wakita sends another letter through Fr. Francis Roca to Fr. Rafael, dated December 8, in which, besides giving him abundant data about Japan and the ways of entering it, tells him that to buy a piece of land to build the buildings, etc., would be enough 50000 dollars. The Bishop got the idea, by the first letter Fr. Rafael sent him, that the Order was rich.  So many schools in Spain, America, Europe

 

On December 18, Fr. Provincial; answers the letter of Fr. General. To the petition of a list of missionaries, says:

 

“I suppose that the subject of it would be to choose Your Paternity among them those who are going to go there. I ask Your Paternity to have confidence in me and may leave it to my discretion who are the individuals for such a transcendental enterprise”.

 

And by the way he exposes his ideas about that mission. To know English is for him a second quality. They have to be very well selected persons, very intelligent, with a high spirit of abnegation. He wants that those who go there would sign before a written declaration by which they renounce to go back to their native country. They should go to give themselves completely to the Japanese people, that is to say, to become Japanese by head and heart. He proposes that only young priests should be sent, even to finish their priestly studies there.

 

He does not see the things clearly, yet, and that is why he does not want to make public the project. He asks for a last favor: it would not be good that the Japanese foundation would appear as imposed by the General Curia, but rather as his initiative.

 

Fr. General answers him on December 27. He insists that he wants to have a list of volunteers, although he does not want to oppose Fr. Provincial at the hour of selecting the ones to be sent. But one thing is sure, in his opinion, one of the two sent, must be a little mature, with an experience of local Superior. He calms him down regarding the paternity of the mission: the General Curia offers it to the Province of Vasconia as a prize to its enthusiasm, not as a punishment because of its lacking of dynamism. Besides that, he considers as a providential thing that both of them had been in contact with the same Bishop Wakida.  Nevertheless, from now on, he wants to become the one who would carry out the negotiations with the Bishop of Yokohama. The “enthusiastic” letter Fr. Rafael wrote to him before, was surely little realistic; and from there come the difficulties in the negotiations with whom becomes very exigent.

 

Upon receiving this second letter, Fr. Juan Manuel understood that Fr. Tomek wanted to take care of the organization of the mission, and because of that, he had to renounce his personal ideas. He made a public calling to the Province, asking for volunteers and on January 3, he sent the list to Fr.General. There appear 26 names. Of those 30, 21 are less than30 years, 4 are between 30 and 45 and one has 74.  From the list were selected the first sent, Frs. Feliciano Perez and Pedro Luis Perea; later on would go Frs. Feliciano Espinosa and Tomas Urruchi.

 

Upon making public the petition of volunteers, Fr. Feliciano Perez sends on the January 2, 1950, a letter to Fr. General where he asks to intervene in the enterprise. And at the same time he sends another one he had already written on July 8 before in the same sense but that he did not want to send then.

 

Fr. General thanks Fr.Provincial the list sent and praise the missionary spirit of the Province. He communicates that the General Congregation has decided to send Fr. Feliciano Perez, Rector of Bilbao, because he has the conditions of enthusiasm to overcome the difficulties, prudence to value the situations, experience in dealing with authorities and humility to go back if it would be necessary. He leaves to Fr. Provincial the election of the young Father that would accompany him. He communicates that he has received the second letter of Bishop Wakida to Fr. Rafael and he considers the amount of 50000 dollars as an amount: ”from outer space”. He suspects that the Bishop thinks that there are two different initiatives, and that is why he asks Fr. Rafael to write making things clear and leaving the matter to Fr. General. He indicates that there are still many details to make clear, but he tries to quiet him down about the material things:

 

“I want to assure your that the beginning of the Mission cannot be made only with the means of the Province of Vasconia, but rather the whole Order should help this foundation. The Pious Schools will help in the bigger expenses, such as trips and the help of the Fathers in Japan during the first two years.”

 

At the same time, Fr. General sends a “pro-memoria” of the relations with the Bishop of Yokohama through Fr. Rokonai.

 

Still on January 2, Fr. Roca writes to Fr. Rafael as if he would be the responsible of the foundation, giving him advises and different information. Food, clothes to bring, climate, possibilities of earning the livelihood, means of transportation… Regarding the Religious that they should first go to explore the land,

 

“The good age would be around 35 years. I am 37. Strong nerves, since this climate wears a little the nervous system; and not so much tender hearts, because the Japanese girls are not so beautiful but they are rather affectionate; therefore, for those who are in some way mellifluous, they are a little dangerous. But if you do not keep contact with them because you dedicate to boys… In a word, strong and virtuous people, that would offer guarantees.”

 

At that time, Fr. General had already answered to Bishop Wakida on December 13, accepting the foundation according to the established conditions in his letter of November 15, making clearer that the initiative of Fr. Rafael and his, were the same, and committing himself to send two Fathers upon finishing the school year of 48-49. He left for the future the most difficult bull: the economic help of the Bishop. The answer of the Bishop to the offering of Fr. General arrived on January 16. He said that he had put the matter in the hands of the Apostolic Delegate (Pro-Nuntius) Msgr. Maximiliano de Furstenberg, who should decide in the juridical and economic matters regarding the question, but that decision only would be taken when the missionaries would be in Japan. The Bishop asked that the missionaries would have titles for teaching.

 

After consulting with Fr. Feliciano, Fr. Provincial elected Fr. Pedro Luis Perea to accompany him. The two missionaries started the preparation for the long trip.

 

3. Difficult negotiations  

 

Fr. General had the economic bargaining with Bishop Wakida. On January 26 he sent the personal data of Fr. Feliciano to obtain the visa and again tried the economic theme: the Order did not have 50000 dollars, nor 15000, nor even 1000 dollars. According to our Constitutions, it was the matter of those who call us to found to provide a house and a school. Therefore, if he would not provide, the Piarists had to abandon the enterprise, waiting for another better occasion. A few days later he sent also the data of Fr. Perea and he was recommended himself to the benevolence of the Bishop.

On February 12 arrived the answer from Yokohama, through Fr. Rokonai. He said that in a missionary country it is impossible to give a house and a school; no Bishop used to do it. On the other hand, it was not necessary to have in hand the 50000 dollars: that amount corresponded to the desire of Bishop about founding a Catholic School in the center of Yokohama. The Bishop would see gladly a more simple foundation in any other place of the Diocese. And if they did not have even a 1000 dollars, they had to call another Congregation.

 

Fr. General wrote on February 22 with the last offer: we did not ask the ownership of the house and school; we would be satisfied with the use of them. The Piarist did not go with the intention of increasing their material goods, but the spiritual ones of Japan. He offered to the Diocese very well prepared Religious, as teachers. He would pay the trip expenses and he would try to help during the first 10 years with 1500 or 2000 dollars yearly, for the maintenance of the Religious. If the Bishop would have Mass stipends, the Order could celebrate 4000. It was not necessary that the school would be in the same Yokohama. Another type of support the Order could not do. If the Bishop could not accept these conditions, the Order would go back from the project and would offer for any other activity to Propaganda Fide

 

The Answer of the Bishop on March 8, opened in a definitive way the road to the Piarists: he accepted the proposition of Fr. General and he proposed a foundation in Hiratsuka City, “a place to 40 minutes by train, on the line Tokyo to Osaka, a geographic center of the Diocese. It is a small place by the sea, in a beautiful place and with a benign climate. It is in the Gulf of Sagami and near some high mountains (the famous Fuji)”. He added that it was a pity but he could not offer Mass stipends, since they were necessary for the maintenance of the local clergy. He wanted to know, as soon as possible, if they wanted to send the two Religious. Fr. General wrote by return of the post, on March 18, promising him the sending of the two missionaries as soon as it would be possible. And he thanked Fr. Rokonai his intervention during these difficult negotiations.

 

The data about Fr. Feliciano and Fr. Perea had left Rome at the end of January. Fr.Rokonai assured that it would not necessary more than a month to obtain the permit to enter Japan, but in reality those permits did not arrive until the beginning of August. Fr. General had requested them in April and June and Fr.Rokonai assured that they were ready to come. In the meantime, Fr. Feliciano has resigned his post as a Rector in Bilbao City,  on May 10. On June 11, Fr. General gave the Obedience to the two Fathers. To Fr. Feliciano told: “We choose and nominate you as the first missionary in Japan”. It was time to say good-bye and of impatience because the permits did not arrive. They had information that they had been already given. Some thought that the Bishop, unable of fulfilling his word about Hiratsuka, was going back. In reality, when the permits were received, they had the date of April 20.

 

The doubts were true. The Bishop communicated that he was not able to offer a house and a school in Hiratsuka after a year after the arriving. In any way, they were going to need that time to study Japanese. He communicated that a Canadian Congregation had taken care of the great school dreamt in Yokohama. They were the Menesian Brothers, founders of the Seiko School in Yokohama. Some of the Brothers studied Japanese with our Fathers in Tobe Church. The first missionaries had to provide by themselves; it would be enough with 400 or 500 dollars. As compensation, the Bishop offered 30 dollars in stipends, every month, for one of them. With that amount, two persons could live.

 

Facing the happening evolution, Fr. General felt the temptation of abandoning the enterprise, according to what he communicated to Fr. Rokonai. If during the preparation of the project it was so complicated to negotiate with an Oriental Bishop, what would happen in the future if he would send the two Missionaries? Nevertheless, the matter had already made official; and in the Ephemerides Calasanctianae of March-April the foundation had been enounced. The Pious Schools were waiting that first new foundation in a missionary country and Fr. Tomek decided to go forwards. What he was losing in security, he was gaining in action liberty. It would be necessary to count with the help of the Province, Order… and of the Providence. Besides that, it was not out of order that the Bishop from Yokohama would really give a hand in the future. Therefore, he wrote to Fr. Provincial of Vasconia so that the missionaries would start the departure.

 

Fr. General tried to get help for the missionaries. The trip to Japan would cost about 50000 pesetas (about 350 dollars) of that time! and the Box of the Order paid half. He gave also 500 dollars to the missionaries and many objects for the cult. He got Mass stipends from for them from Boston Archbishop and from the USA Apostolic Nuntius. Also the promise of help from the Poland and Hungarian Fathers that just immigrated to that country (USA). Their help was made concrete later on in receiving the missionaries who went to USA to study English, until 11, and one who went to Los Angeles, with our Brothers from Catalonia. The Vasconia Province gave also help to the missionaries. And, at the end, to keep a common effort, concentrated and being in charge of the necessary propaganda, by the petition of Fr. Provincial and Fr. Feliciano, Fr. General nominated Fr. Rafael Perez as Procurator of Missions. We know him already by his contacts with Bishop Wakida through Fr. Francis Roca. His help would become very efficient. We will talk about it later on. The nomination was made public on November 14, 1950, when the missionaries were already in Japan. Fr. Rafael presented some objection to the nomination, because he was afraid, he thought, that it would not be good for the task he had a Master of Juniors in Irache. On the contrary, it was seen later that thanks to the privilege job, he could give influence to many Piarists regarding the missionary spirit.  

 

2.     Long trip to the Orient

 

The missionaries started to complete the necessary requirements for the trip. The permits were given on the 20 of April and they were valid for six months. After they said goodbye to the families and the Province (they did not know if they would return to Spain) in a solemn Mass celebrated in Pamplona School, Frs. Feliciano and Perea departed for Madrid on September 17, 1950. On the 20, they went to Rome, where they remained for a week. As it was a Holy Year, they took the opportunity in visiting the Basilicas and gain the indulgences. Pius XII received them in Castelgandolfo in a semi-private audience. But especially they dedicated themselves to study the steps they had to give after arriving to Japan. They studied especially the juridical theme: at the moment, the mission depended according to the Canon Law from the Province of Vasconia, but Fr. General exposed the intention of the General Congregation that little by little the mission would be converted from Provincial to universal. In reality, that intention of the General Congregation was carried out in 1996, when Fr. General, after the foundation of the house in Cebu City, Philippines, changed the statutes of Provincial Vicariate of Japan in General Delegation of Japan-Philippines.

New solemn goodbye in San Pantaleo. On September 27, they left on a PAL airplane  bound to Japan. They stopped in Tel-Aviv, Karachi and Calcutta. In Manila they had accommodation in the Recollect Fathers. They remained there 5 days, waiting the first flight to Japan October 3.  After they stopped in Taipei, they arrived to Tokyo at 9:30 in the evening. There, Fr. Francis Roca was waiting for them who accompanied them to the Convent of Handmaid Sisters in Yokosuka City, a city near Yokohama. Some Religious Sisters were from Spain and Fr. Roca was their Chaplain. The first night stayed at the Chaplain’s place. Fr. Roca, as well as the Religious Sisters, gave a good help to the missionaries in those first moments when everything was so strange to them.

 

5. Arrival in Japan. Hard beginning

 

On the following day, they started their first steps. Paying a visit to the Bishop Wakida, Spanish Ambassador, and Apostolic Delegate. With the two ecclesiastical persons could be understood easily in Latin. As a provisional lodging, they received two rooms in the Yokosuka Parish. The meals were at the Sisters’ convent, five minutes from the Parish. After two or three days after their arrival, they make a contact with a language schools of the Jesuits in Taura City, in order to start the Japanese studies. The Director gives them the books and tells them to learn the first ten lessons and to come the following week to join the regular classes. Everyday they celebrated Mass, one in the Sisters' chaplain and another one in the Parish; they take their breakfast and by train go to Taura, where they spend almost the whole day. The life in Japan is not so expensive; the Sisters take at the beginning 3000 yen every month for lodging and food; the school, almost the same. They start with 25 Mass intentions every month each one, one dollar each, that the Bishop gives them. The dollar was then at the rate of 400 yen a dollar. With only that income, they had enough for the whole ordinary expenses.

 

Already in the visit to the Bishop, he tells them that they have to open a school in Hiratsuka. The Sisters dissuade them of it: it is a city too small. The first day of vacation, Thursday, the Bishop accompanies them with his car to visit the land that according to him had bought for the school. In Hiratsuka meet the civil and educational authorities, When hey go to visit the land. The Bishop tells to Fr. Feliciano; “This is the land to have to buy”. Fr.Feliciano receives it without getting nervous (he started to understand the Orientals) and later on the Bishop takes them to eat to a restaurant. And the thing remained like that. The Piarists never did anything else to go to Hiratsuka.

 

In this way goes on their studying life until an unexpected happening tested the missionaries. On December 28, Fr. Perea fell sick with a strong cold and high fever. It is a special hard winter in Japan. With the conditions they are living, it is not so easy for Fr. Feliciano to take care of the sick person. The new years arrives, 1951, and the Spanish Ambassador invites the Spanish Missionaries to a lunch at the Embassy. Fr.Perea, as he was recuperating, did not go. Fr Ferliciano meets there a Franciscan, a Salesian, three Jesuits, a Marist and a secular priest, Fr. Roca. Fr. Feliciano narrates in his chronicle:

 

“The meeting was thought of being of much utility, but the matters were not. It was talked about the possibility of editing a Spanish Japanese Grammar. A Dominican, Fr. Vicente Gonzalez, was working in it (it is the Fr. Vicente Gonzales Grammar that appeared in 1954 with the prologue of the Ambassador; it has had several editions since then), but it us clear that the work and printing of the book will go the same with or without our meeting. Later on, as a bomb news, the Ambassador communicated to us that he had gotten a treaty thanks to it Japan would import to Japan, every year, three Spanish movies; for the missionary effects, I think it does not mean anything at all”.

 

Maybe Fr. Feliciano was only for a short time in Japan to appreciate the value of such patriotic meetings…

 

At the middle of February, Fr. Perea falls again. The doctor says that it is influenza, but that he should go for radiography of the lungs when the fever had passed. Fr. Feliciano manages to attend Fr. Perea and to attend classes.

 

On February 20, a notable happening takes place. The two first Piarist Sisters arrive to Japan, Sisters Natividad Bayo and Pilar Ibanez. Fr. Feliciano takes care of then going to the airport during the night. They stay at the Handmaid Sisters that first night.

 

At the end of the month, Fr. Perea continues with fever; therefore, Fr. Feliciano decides to take him to the hospital to examine him. The first impression going there is terrible. He fears the possibility of hospitalizing him in that place. They take out blood for an analysis and they make a radiography of his lungs. Fr.Roca is with them. After an hour, they give the result: it is tuberculosis. The doctors prescribe streptomycin; during those years, it could not be found in Japan; it came from USA. The Handmaid Sisters give them a box of such a medicine they have received. In order not to alarm the sick person, they do not tell him the real state, waiting for the result of another diagnostic of a specialist. The Handmaid Sisters make a specialist come from Tokyo who dictates, without any error, that it is tuberculosis. He recommends that besides going on with streptomycin, the sick person has to be hospitalized, and even that it is convenient to go back to Spain.

Fr. Feliciano stops the classes to attend the sick person, being against the hospitalization. But at the end, he understands that it is the best for all; therefore, on March 9, he goes to Seibo Byoin in Tokyo, a hospital European style, clean and with individual rooms, attended by Religious Franciscan Sisters of the Charity. The hospitalization expenses are high, but the sick person is well attended. And the two missionaries, alone. Fr. Freliciano writes in his chronicle of those years some lines that are worthy to be copied literally:

 

“GRATITUDE. It is an obligation to write it down. The Piarist Missionaries that would follow us should not forget it and at the same time, they should practice Charity with other Missionaries in similar circumstances. The attitude of the Handmaid Sisters of Yokosuka was an example of Charity, always and at any moment, at the time of receiving us and providing us of what was lacking upon arriving to Japan, as well as during this sickness, taking interest in the sick person as much as they could do with any of their Religious of their Community; even after Fr. Perea was in the hospital, they continued with the same interest, and several times, the Mother Superior was the interpreter with the Directress of the Hospital. The Jesuits Fathers had much delicacy with us, not only because they admitted us to school of Language, for their young people, but also during the sickness of Fr. Perea; they took us by car and did not leave us until everything was arranged and they did not want to receive anything for their expenses”.

 

The diagnostic of the Directress of the hospital was emphatic: “The sick person has to go back, otherwise, he will die”. Fr. Feliciano is very worried, of course. He informs to Fr. Provincial and to Fr. General about the situation of the sick person and asks Fr.Batory, Hungarian Piarist in USA, to send streptomycin. On March 28 arrives a telegram  of Fr. Provincial of Vasconia: “Congregation considers inconvenient coming back. Definitive decision Fr. General. Coming back discretion family. Let us have confidence in God. Provincial”. The letter sent on the same date, Fr. Provincial laments the hospitalization of Fr.Perea. It is necessary to say that the tuberculosis was, a pity, frequent in Spain during those years; In Vasconia there had been several cases of young Religious sick. Fr.Provincial had seen  that it was more effective to take care of them at home than sending them to the hospital, and that is why he judged that in Japan they should do the same. Besides that, he considers that it would cause a bad effect in the Province the coming back of the missionary.  Fr.General considers that he should follow the counsel of the doctors. There exists an anguished inter-exchange of letters and telegrams with Pamplona and Rome, without knowing rather Fr. Feliciano what to do. On April 14, the Directress of the Hospital gives a written opinion:

 

“It is advised that Fr. Perea would go back to Europe because he has a wide tuberculosis lesion in the lungs, being that of a kind that spreads rapidly. It is advised not to remain in Japan because here there are not sanatoriums prepared to treat the foreigners and we consider that the attention in a sanatorium is an essential thing in his case. The Japanese climate, because of its humid heat, is very bad for the tuberculosis. We have a bad experience when we have treated this kind of cases in Japan.  He might flight – must fly – as soon as possible to avoid the heat of summer. His case is a serious one because of the extension of the lesion and because of his youth”.

 

It is necessary to notice that only by a special case admitted there Fr. Perea, since that was not a hospital for people with tuberculosis. The following day arrived a letter from Fr. General telling that the sick should be sent to Spain. On the 22 arrived another telegram from Fr. Provincial: “Send sick person to Spain, rapidly. Provincial”.

 

On May 5, 1951, Fr. Pedro Luis Perea left Japan for Spain on a plane, sick with tuberculosis, after seven months in Japan, half of them sick. Fr. Feliciano remained completely alone, studying Japanese, thinking about the future and waiting the arrival of new reinforcements.

 

6. A year (long) of solitude 

 

Fr Feliciano, alone, dedicates to continue his Japanese studies. On July 11, he finishes his first course. On the following day, he receives a communication from Fr. Provincial: he has nominated Frs. Ignacio de Nicolas, Enrique Rivero and Imanol Lasquibar to go to Japan although before that they will spend a year in USA studying English.

 

In solitude, he makes a week of spiritual exercises. On August 8, he finds a telegram on his desk: “Father has died”. Still a week later he would receive a letter from him, written two days before dying.

 

On the 27, he celebrates the feast of our Holy Founder , “for the first time since my being 5 years old without attending the solemn functions of the day”, he writes. The Handmaid Sisters make their utmost to solemnize the date and in the afternoon he receives the visit of the Religious that come to congratulate him.

 

Fr. Feliciano uses summer time to review Japanese, before starting the second course on September 17.At that time he has already a good knowledge of the Japanese Language, since the Episcopal Vicar gives him permit to hear confessions in Japanese. At the beginning of this month he goes to Nagoya to help as an interpreter (in Latin or Japanese) to the Piarist Sisters. The Apostolic Administrator offers them a house for two years and later on they have to buy it for 2 millions.

 

The year 1952 ends. Fr. Feliciano writes:

 

“The Christmas vacations are spent in a completely solitude for me. The Lord, with his Hand that always is of infinite Piety tested very well the Japanese Piarist Mission, with pain, in the year that ends. May He be blessed, since He is the only one who knows what to do and He does it with infinite kindness”.    

 

In fact, he is not as alone as he feels; many are helping him from far away. One of the most enthusiastic missionaries in the background is Fr. Fafael Perez.

 

7. Irache, in the rear of the Mission

 

As soon as Fr. Rafael accepted the nomination for Procurator of the Mission, he started to work for it. In the many letter he wrote to Fr. Feliciano we can see the importance of his moral and economic support. We offer some samples. On April 19, 1951, Fr. Rafael writes:

 

“The ‘Procuration Center’ is going on. I am receiving letters from the whole Spain full of a great spirit of a true Calasanzian fraternity. The gifts are coming, too. (…) I have inscribed almost all the schools in the Missionary Union of the Clerics. May the whole Pious Schools be burning. At least, we will give them fire. But with prudence and common sense. (…) Irache is a great missionary oven. I work as much as I can to form missionary environment in all the schools. Many children write to me with enthusiasm. (…) Send me pictures of 50 or 60 small Japanese children, since some ask for baptism with a picture.”

 

In another letter, November 6 of the same year:

 

“In Irache everything burned in the Missionary Week of Domund (World Missionary Sunday). Slides, conferences, Eucharistic Performances, sacrifices, etc. Missionary apotheosis (…). I will work with zeal preparing two more and so may be fulfilled what Your Reverend wants: that next August may be formed the Community. Regarding the funds, I will do what I can. The magazine takes me a lot of money, but it is necessary to make propaganda. We are sowing and may God want to fertilize the seed and we will gather. (…) I continually write to the Procurators of the schools. There are many very much interested, but not so much is gotten. (…) Regarding the Province, I do not know what kind of means it has to attend the Mission. It seems to me that an important loan should be done for one or several millions of pesetas, or what would correspond to yen, and later on it will be paid off, since I believe that in Japan the schools will function as here, that is to say, through the tuition of the students”.

 

Nevertheless, those years were not years of economic abundance in Spain in order to help missions much. But the help of Fr. Rafael was really important, on the moral and material level. We imagine him asking everybody for his beloved missions of Japan. He founded the Yokosuka Editorial that edited the magazine with the same title and with the intention and theme clearly missionary. Really he sowed with prodigality. Still in 1994 came to the Pious Schools part of the harvest: at the end of February, Fr. Benigno Romero, a Parish Priest from San Mamede in Orense Province, left his library to theYokosuka Editorial. The Bishop of Orense, the executor of the will, made a contact with the Director of ICCE in Madrid, since he was unable to find out such editorial that he associated to the Piarists… And in ICCE are the old books, a testimony of the admiration Fr. Rafael knew how to awake in many people around him. To the third House founded in Japan Fr. Feliciano gave the name of Saint Raphel Archangel. Was it a sign of gratitude to whom so much did for the Mission?

 

8. Looking for a house  

 

Besides the offer of Hiratsuka, soon arrived for the missionaries another offer through a different way. Later on we will talk about the Jesuit, Fr. Domezain who was in Japan and had been contacted by the Piarist of Vasconia. From one of his companions, Fr. Jose Javier Escalada, a graduate of the Piarist in Pamplona City, Spain, and a friend of infancy of Fr. Perea, arrived to him an offer on February 12, 1951: in Ogori City, in the Shikoku Region, at the southern part of Japan; theye were offering to the Catholic Church a school, already functioning, without any economic compensation. The Jesuits could not take it over because they had already many works, and then they thought about the Piarists. The letter arrived at the time Fr. Perea in the hospital for the second time, therefore the missionaries had then another worries. Fr. Feliciano, although he kept the letter, not even put the fact in his chronicle.

 

But upon arriving the year 1952 and knowing that at the end of the summer another three Piarists were going to arrive, Fr. Feliciano takes seriously the searching of the house for the community, aiming, by the way, to the future educational work. At the beginning of the year was nominated new Bishop of Yokohama, Msgr. Lucas Arai. When he greeted Fr. Feliciano and he knew his plans, lifting his arms exclaimed: “Banzai, banzai, banzai! (Long live…) But his shouting did not go parallel to the afterwards facts.

 

Fr. Feliciano visits different houses, but they are not good for him or they are too expensive. On April 9 he summarizes the economic situation in this way:

 

“Here, there is a deposit of 908 dollars and on the way 1700 dollars; everything sent by Fr. General.  From Spain, they have sent nothing, but I calculate by the data Fr. Rafael has sent me that he has not even 100000 pesetas. Although I may receive everything immediately, it does not amount 2 million-yen. Any small house, and even not apt, is more expensive.”

 

On May 4, it was celebrated the blessing of the Yokosuka-Otsu Church, where later on the Piarists have given many services. After finishing the ceremony, the Bishop told Fr. Feliciano that he was constructing a new church with its house, and offered it. The Father asked several days to think it over and visit it. He thought that it was good and accepted the offering. Fr. Feliciano writes in his chronicle:

 

“This Church and House is our actual House and Parish of Tobe. Let admire here the Goodness and Providence of God with us: when we did not have money nor means to get the House, He Gave to us ready and to our measure, without asking for the money and freeing us from the trouble of attending the construction of it. The same Providence gave us in property the same House, but for that it was necessary to pass through many worries”.

 

9. Tobe        

 

The construction had started on April 27 and it should be finished in August. After Fr. General was informed of the offer, he approves it; on a letter of June 23 he communicates that the General Congregation as well as the Provincial Congregation of Vasconia are in accord in starting the negotiations for the canonical erection of the house in Yokohama. Before that, it was necessary the permit of the Bishop to erect a canonical religious house; it arrived on June 3, 1952. The Bishop warns that his intention is to lend the house for two years and later on to put a Japanese Parish Priest. But Fr. Feliciano has different ideas; “I always have faith that the Lord wants the house for us, and since He is God, He is the Owner of everything…”

 

Fr. Felciano ends his second year of Japanese; during the vacations he makes a spiritual retreat and directs one to the Piarist Sisters in Nagoya. He goes back to Yokosuka. On August 17 the new church of Tobe is blessed, still without finishing it. The Bishop tells him that the church is a filial of the Sueyoshicho Parish and gives him all the faculties of the Parish Priest except  the faculty of celebrating weddings. It was announced to the faithful that starting the following Sunday there would be a Mass at 9:00 A.M. The same 17, the Bishop asks him to remain there to guard the house. Fr.Feliciano did not think of moving there until September, since until then has to fulfill the commitment as a Chaplain to the Handmaid Sisters of Yokosuka. The provisional solution is to have a guard that would remain there during the night those remaining days of August. The canonical erection of Tobe as a house of the Order has the date of August 12, 1952. The house and the church were put under the protection of the Saint that inspired so much Fr. General and Fr. Provincial to send missionaries of Vasconia to Japan; Saint Francis Xavier.

 

On August 24, 1952m Fr. Feliciano celebrated the first Mass in Tobe. At the fixed time, there was not even one faithful. At 9:20 there were about 5; during the sermon entered another 15, many of them from the Philippines.  

 

On September 1, Fr. Feliciano moved from Yokosuka to Yokohama. The Handmaid Sisters accompanied him and gave him some furniture. After that date, he celebrates Mass every day at 7:00 A.M., and on Sundays also at 9:00 A.M. Some faithful attend. On the 5th, first Friday, he leaves the Holy Sacrament in the altar. “I ask the Lord that He would keep forever for us  this House”, Fr.Feliciano writes.

 

During the whole month of September he went to Yokohama two Piarist Sisters, from Nagoya City. Sisters Eulalia Murugarren and Pilar Ibaņez, to help Fr. Feliciano to furnish the house “and they worked more that what one can write, doing a marvelous service”. At the end of the month, everything was ready to receive the three missionaries that were to come from USA, plus another three that would arrive directly from Spain.  <><><><>BACK <><><><><>

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