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SVD in Japan

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Fr.Joseph Reiners
The Divine Word Missionaries came to Japan in 1907. The first to arrive, Fr. A. Ceska, with two companions, started with a parish in Akita, and the work spread through Akita, Yamagata, Niigata, Ishikawa, Toyama, and Fukui prefectures (provinces), along the Japan Sea coast. This area became the Niigata Diocese of which Fr. Reiners was appointed the first prefect apostolic. (Fr. Ceska continued as SVD superior.) Later, the three last mentioned prefectures with the addition of Aichi and Gifu became the Diocese of Nagoya. Msgr. Reiners was transferred here as prefect apostolic, and he was succeeded in Niigata by Msgr. Ceska.
In 1930 the monastery at Tajimi was founded and became the SVD Provincialate. In the next twenty years, under the direction of Fr. Reiners, Nanzan Schools were founded, covering the range from Junior High School to University. The Provincial Center was transferred to Nagoya, and the Seminary at Nagoya was established. The 1950s saw a boom in the expansion of parishes and the building of new churches, particularly in Nagoya. Also at this time the Nanzan Schools in Nagasaki were founded. In this way, with equal emphasis on pastoral work and education, the Society's work continues today in Akita, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Nagasaki.

Mission in Philippines
Japanese missionary overseas

In 1966 the Divine Word Seminary was transferred to its present location in Yagumo-cho, Nagoya. The international character of the Province is further advanced as Japanese seminarians also pursue research and study abroad. At present there are over 100 members working in the Province, of whom half are non-Japanese, in line with the Society's particular international character of having members from different nationalities working side-by-side in its missions. At the same time Japanese members have been sent to work in Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Ghana, and Germany.

Nanzan Church
Nanzan Church

In the four dioceses, Niigata, Tokyo, Nagoya, Nagasaki, some 20 parishes are entrusted to the Society. In most of these, kindergartens are a valuable means of contact with the local communities. The largest parish, one of the largest in Japan, is Kichijoji Parish in Tokyo, with more than 5,000 parishoners. There is a community of six priests serving in the parish. In the diocese of Nagoya six parishes are cared for by the SVD. In recent years Nagoya has seen a sudden increase in the number of non-Japanese Catholics, and Masses in Spanish, Portuguese, and Tagalog are regularly scheduled in the parishes, calling for the combined efforts of Japanese and foreign missionaries in pastoral work. In Nagasaki diocese Nishimachi Church is a complex of parish, kindergarten, grade-school, junior and high-schools, and is a strong influence in the local society. In the diocese of Osaka, also, an SVD member is caring for the pastoral needs of the many Vietnamese resident there.

Nanzan University
Nanzan University

Education has always been a high priority for the Divine Word Missionaries, and this is reflected in the Japan Province in the many schools it runs. They cover the whole range: Kindergartens, Grade Schools, Junior and Senior High Schools, Junior College and University. With the aim of contributing to the formation of a society in which all persons are fully respected, the guiding motto taken by the schools is Hominis Dignitati For Human Dignity. Furthermore, the Institute for Religion and Culture within Nanzan University, through research and active dialogue makes a valuable contribution to promoting mutual understanding between the different religions. An area of research that has been promoted by the SVD from the beginning is also represented in Nanzan's Institute of Anthropology.

Philippino Dance
Dancers from Philippines

Reflecting the Divine Word Missionaries' worldwide concern for Justice and Peace, the Japan Province has been to the fore in its involvement with this area. "Ai no jikko undo" (AJU = "Love in Action Movement") is a very widespread non-sectarian organisation that focuses on practical social assistance. It was founded by Fr. G. Gemeinder, SVD,. In collaboration with the Nagoya Diocesan Center, the homeless (a growing social problem) are offered direct aid. Nagoya DARC (Drug Addicts' Rehabilitation Center); the international assistance work of Caritas Japan, as well as providing help in building schools in Third World countries, are examples of concerns in which the SVD in Japan is active. The schools especially offer a place in which to spread information about such work and invite the students to participate. Theatre and dance groups from the slums in Brazil and the Philippines have been invited to perform, providing a means to attract attention to and heighten awareness of the many problems of the Third World, and at the same time offering a means to all of making a contribution towards their solution.

Other than the parishes, the Society has Religious Communities in Akita, Karuizawa (Nagano Prefecture), Tajimi, and Nagasaki. In Nagoya there are the two large communities in the Divine Word Seminary, and the SVD House (for members teaching in the schools). The house in Karuizawa is used both for vacation and as a retreat center.
Tajimi monastery
Tajimi Monastery

The monastery in Tajimi is of special significance. It was founded as the Provincial Center in 1930 and is regarded as the SVD "Motherhouse" in Japan. It is also central because the Society's cemetery is located there! The complex includes the monastery with its distinctive architecture, the local parish church, a retreat center, and a center for study groups. It is the only monastery in Japan with a vineyard, and during the war years it offered an additional service to the Church in Japan through the production of Mass wine. "Tajimi Monastery" features on the local tourist map and attracts a steady stream of visitors, but the wooded riverside grounds retain a quiet atmosphere suitable for prayer and reflection.

Divine Word Seminary
Divine Word Seminary
To foster vocations the Province has a Minor Seminary in Nagasaki. Then the formation program is situated in Tajimi and the Major Seminary in Nagoya. Postulants, novices, and aspirants to the brotherhood and priesthood have their appropriate programs, planned where possible in conjunction with a university education. At Xavier House newly arrived missionaries, students, brothers and priests, are offered introductory courses in the Japanese language and culture. Foreign seminarians who take this course are then offered the option of continuing their seminary training in Japan. About half of the seminarians at present, as well as many of the semainary staff, are non-Japanese nationals, and with all day-to-day affairs being carried on in Japanese, life there is a witness in microcosm to the internationality of the Society. But life is not only punctuated with new arrivals from overseas. Japanese seminarians also take part in the SVD Overseas Training Program (OTP) in which seminarians during their training spend a year or more in a foreign country to gain experience. At present seven Japanese seminarians are in foreign lands on this program.
Every year also the Major Seminary is host to an "Altarboys' Camp," a short summercamp for young altarboys from throughout Japan, during which they get to see seminary life from the inside. In some it may sow the seed of a vocation many of today's Japanese priests are "graduates" of this altarboys' gathering -- but for all it remains as an experience they cherish.