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Asia Pacific Augistinian Conference

Order of St Augustine – Japan

 
       

Japanese Augustinian at a desk in Tokyo.

This year 2012 was doubly significant for the Vicariate of Japan in that it simultaneously marks the 60th anniversary of the Order’s return to the Land of the Rising Sun and the fourth centenary of the foundation of San Agustín Church and the Convent in Nagasaki, which was indeed the highlight of the mission that started in 1602 by the Province of the Philippines in the present day Oita on the western coast of Kyushu and ended with the martyrdom of Tomás de San Agustín and Miguel de San José, Japanese Augustinians who joined the Order at Intramuros, Manila, and died for the Faith on the Hill of Martyrs in Nagasaki in 1637.  

In the Augustinian Priory Chapel, Nagasaki.

Known for its splendor, San Agustín Church, which was constructed by Bl. Hernando Ayala, was home to the parish community of over 10,000 individuals, many of whom joined the Third Order and the Archconfraternity of the Cincture that Fr. Hernando introduced and organized. Only two years later, however, with the promulgation by Tokugawa Ieyasu of the Edict of Banishment, which ordered that all churches and convents be destroyed, all missionaries leave the country, and all Christians apostatize. Thus, San Agustín Church and the Convent were torn down; the majority of the missionaries were exiled and the rest went underground including Hernando Ayala, who became the first Augustinian martyr in Japan in 1617.  From this time on, with no churches or convents, whatever missionary effort became an underground ministry  During the 35 years of the Order’s presence, 24 friars were martyred, and counting only those whose names are known, 57 members of the Third Order and 47 members of the Archconfraternity of the Cincture shed their blood for Christ.  All that remains of this glorious history is a small stone marker at the site of the destroyed church in Nagasaki.
 
      It was 315 years later that three American friars, two from Villanova Province and one from Chicago Province, arrived in Japan in November, 1952 to reopen the Augustinian mission in the recently A-bombed city of Nagasaki.  With the arrival of a few more friars in the following few years, they managed to found a parish and a grade school and kindergarten there in Nagasaki, and three more parishes and a kindergarten within the first two decades.
 
      One of the biggest parishes in Nagasaki and in fact all of Japan, Our Mother of Consolation Shiroyama Catholic Church is known for its very active lay apostolate and has had the distinction of being home to Saint Mary’s School, which is the nearest thing to a parochial school in Japan, where such an institution is virtually unknown.  Each of the other three parishes, St. Augustine Sasaoka Catholic Church in Fukuoka, St. Monica Minato Catholic Church in Nagoya, and St. Augustine Kasai Catholic Church in Tokyo, having started with only some dozen members, now developed into a very active city parish with a registered membership of 600 to 1000 individuals.  
 
   

Augustinian now at Sasaoka Parish, Fukuoka.

 Japan is no exception to the phenomenon of globalization and two of our parishes, St. Augustine in Tokyo and St. Monica in Nagoya, have become the venues of muliti-lingual and multi-cultural ministries.  In particular at Kasai, where there are many Filipinos and others with various backgrounds, the English Mass is celebrated every Sunday. In light of the needs to minister to these Christians, the Cebu Province generously responded to our request for personnel assistance by sending a friar in 2003 and another in 2010.
 
     As regards the formation of Japanese friars, it started when Joseph Akakura joined the community in Fukuoka as a postulant in 1960 and was simply professed in 1964. He was followed by Masami Yamaguchi, who in 1975 became the first Japanese friar to be ordained in the Order in about 350 years. Since 1979 when two pre-novices were accepted into the formation program, it has been maintained continuously in Japan and in total eleven friars have been solemnly professed to date (of whom one has died, and three have left us.)  During 2014-2016 there was one simply professed young Japanese man undertaking Augustinian and priestly studies at Sydney, Australia; he was ordained to the priesthood in his hometown of Nagasaki in mid-2017, and now ministers in that city. There is now one postulant in Japan.  Though small in numbers, the Vicariate community continues to hope and pray for new vocations.
 
 
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