In the afternoon of October 21, 2016, about four hundred fifty students, parents, teachers and guests were happily gathered for Mass to celebrate Shotoku’s 60th Anniversary at the school auditorium. At 2:00 pm, the Mass began with a solemn entrance procession led by the newly installed Bishop of Hiroshima Diocese, Alexio Shirahama , two parish priests and a deacon. When they reached the stage, Bishop Shirahama blessed a new, six-feet wooden Marian image ordered from Paete, Laguna for the occasion. He was about to start the Mass when suddenly, the whole auditorium” shook” heavily. It was 2:07 p.m.! All were shocked and were at a loss for some moment. As the auditorium continued to shake stronger, many realized, “It’s an earthquake!” Though very much afraid, everybody tried not to panic. When the tremors died down, Mr.Eiichi Kajita, the School Director went to the microphone and said, “The earth moved with joy. It is celebrating with us!” Hearing this, everyone laughed and gave a sigh of relief! Maybe the earth “moved” because it’s so happy that Shotoku has reached 60 years!, many happily quipped. At the mass were 5 FI sisters representing our four other houses in Japan – Hayama, Tokyo, Maebashi and Joso. They were official guests of the school for the two-day celebration.
Aside from the Eucharistic Celebration, the occasion was highlighted with three other big events: A talk by Sr. Kazuko Watanabe (OND) at the City Auditorium, a concert and a jubilee party. Attended by a crowd of around seven hundred, Sr. Watanabe‘s topic was “Bloom Where You are Planted”, part of a book that became a best seller in Japan. Three Japanese professional musicians – trombone, horn and trumpet players with a pianist entertained everyone during the concert with the special participation likewise of the Shotoku Student Chorus Club and Japanese Harp Club. The Jubilee Party on the other hand was attended by about a hundred old and new teachers, staff, PTA representatives, parents, graduates and CCC girls from Taiwan, Colombia, Spain and the Philippines and city officials. There was a very warm, familiar and nostalgic atmosphere. Laughter, embraces, unending talks and sharing colored the night as each group gave short speeches and sharings of their memories of Shotoku. What moved everybody was a video flashed on the screen of Sr. Socorro Esparis, foundress of Shotoku, now nearly 97 years old.
Looking back, Shotoku was run for fifty years by the FI sisters and then administered entirely by the lay for the last ten years. It is the only mission school in Shimane Prefecture in the southwestern part of Japan. “I will go to the uttermost part of the world in search for souls! ” The dream of Mother Candida has indeed become a reality. Her global family has expanded and for six decades it has brought the light of Christ and His gospel to His Japanese children thru education. It continues to survive with the dedication of a small group of committed Catholic lay leaders and non-Christians alike. Thus the 60th Anniversary was truly a “joy of a lifetime”! Blessed be God forever!
Marianita Teñoso fi