Conversion, Japanese-style

Yoshi Suzukawa SGS


Good Samaritan Sister, Yoshi Suzukawa, slowly scans the titles of the musty books. Standing in her community’s small library in Mara, Japan,, just left of the section on ecology, she picks up a small book with many dog-eared pages. Flipping through it quickly, she gently places the book on a table, reports The Good Oil.

“Can you believe it?” she asks in fast, Japanese-accented English. “This one book is the cause of so many troubles!”

Yoshi is one of eight Good Samaritan Sisters living in their small community house here, tucked in a small neighbourhood just north of the central area of Nara in Japan which is known for its collection of ancient Buddhist temples. From the window outside the community’s chapel you can see a number of the buildings, with their stark wooden architecture, rising above the rooftops of houses and apartment complexes.

The juxtaposition of religions isn’t new to Yoshi, who was raised in a Buddhist family but has spent the bulk of her life Catholic. A sister for 44 years, she taught at a Catholic high school for more than 20 years and then spent a decade in the Philippines as a missionary, teaching English and hosting Bible study classes.

Sitting in front of the book, the ageing sister explains about those troubles. The book by Dr Takashi Nagai, she says, was the first by a Catholic author she read. A survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Nagai was a convert to Catholicism who passed away from leukaemia a few years after the attack.

One of Japan’s most well-known Catholics, Nagai is respected for his numerous books and writings on peace, and for organising medical response teams to tend to the wounded in the first days after the atomic blast.

Given to her by a friend in middle school, one of Nagai’s books interested Yoshi in Catholicism, and would eventually lead to her baptism and joining the Australian-based order of the Good Samaritan Sisters.

FULL STORY Japanese Sisters recount the road of conversion (The Good Oil)

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