Category Archives: Environment

Japanese Sisters Contribute to Peace

by Sister Masako Miyake, SNDdeN

“To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace.” – Pope John Paul II

In Japan, the ministries of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) are now mostly in the Hiroshima Diocese. In 1981, during a visit to Hiroshima as a pilgrim, Pope John Paul II gave his impressive Appeal for Peace to the world. Collaborating with the Church in Japan, Sisters of Notre Dame are challenged to be peacemakers.

Sr. Toshie Nakashima engages students in a reflection on St. Julie Billiart’s spirit of peace-making.

With our co-workers, we are educating young people to be peacemakers. Although most of our students and staff are not Catholics or Christians, in all Notre Dame schools, we do have religious education classes, pray together, study the Gospel and the spirit of our foundress, St. Julie Billiart. Peace study is an essential part of religious education in our schools. We teach and encourage students to be peacemakers. In 1950, with the prayer for peace, Japanese and American Sisters opened Notre Dame Seishin Junior and Senior HighSchool (NDSH) in Hiroshima. Today, this school has a six-year program of peace studies.

A-Symbol-of-PeaceSenbazuru ~ Symbol of Peace
Students have opportunities to hear experiences of the atom bomb from graduates; Sr. Agnes Hirota, SNDdeN is among these witnesses. All students visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park “to remember Hiroshima.” Before their visit, they prayerfully make paper cranes. After sustaining serious injuries from the atom bomb, a girl named Sadako, as a prayer for her recovery, made 1,000 paper cranes (Senbazuru) before she died at age 12. Since then, other young people fulfill her desire and continue this practice with paper cranes which

Students bring peace cranes to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

have become a symbol of peace. Every year, more than ten million Senbazuru are offered to the Peace Park. Students in our school join the Recycling Project of Senbazuru by creating mosaic arts with messages for peace and send them to Catholic Schools in Korea and the Philippines; to our Heritage Centre in Namur, Belgium as well as to a Junior High School in the Japan Disaster Zone.

Challenge from the Disaster Zone
On March 11, 2011, the Great Eastern Earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan with many deaths and heavy immediate and long-term economic and environmental damage. Official records list 15,882 deaths; 2,668 people are missing and 315,196 people are still taking refuge after two years. The tsunami caused destruction to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and released wide-spread radioactivity that has become a severe health hazard. Even now, the 100,000 people, evacuated from this area, live in fear and anxiety. People worry about the effects of radiation on their children.

On the street cars and stations everywhere, Sr. Miriam Miyazaki proclaims her message on a peper-bag: “Good-bye, Nuclear Plant!”

After World War II, Japan chose The Peace Constitution and economic development instead of strong military power. The choice resulted from an earnest desire never to send Japanese children to the battle field nor allow the children ever to starve again. Eventually, the priority for this goal changed to profitability and efficiency, strengthened by the progression of Globalism. With these trends, national policies promote more nuclear power plants, even though scientists predict new disasters, due to other earthquakes or tsunamis.

All 50 functioning nuclear reactors in Japan, with some on the active fault, are at risk for more horrific accidents. Without a more secure environment, the people doubt survival for the next generation.

SNDdeN Collaborate with the Church
As Catholics, we are only 0.3% of the whole population. Yet, in 16 dioceses in Japan, we are united and challenged to respond to the call from the Disaster Zone. The Sendai Diocese (three disaster prefectures) organized the Support Center for victims and formed 9 bases. All dioceses send volunteers and raise money for the Support Center. Caritas Japan supports the Center financially. All Catholics, including bishops, priests, religious and lay people are serving together and sharing resources. At first, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Sisters sponsored a “Sisters’ Relay” to have Sisters from each Congregation join the volunteers for one week or more at the Support Center. During the second year, the women religious had a relay of prayer. Many Catholic schools collected donations and sent the students as volunteers. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan proclaimed: “Abolish Nuclear Plants Immediately.” Many dioceses encouraged parishes to study more about nuclear power.

Sr. Johanna Saiko Nakamura accoumpnied 10 high school students from Hiroshima to the Catholic Support Center in the Disaster Zone for assistance with the clean-up from the earthquake and tsunami.

To help victims of natural and nuclear disasters and to change our own life styles are constant challenges. Sisters in Japan are responding to the call. Each community decided on concrete targets in daily life to save electricity and live more simply. We sent Sister Mitsuko Shoji to the Sendai Support Center as a runner of Sisters’ Relay for a month and other Sisters joined with her in prayer. Notre Dame schools also sent volunteers. Sister Johanna Saiko Nakamura joined with ten students last summer in efforts to remove the debris. These experiences help the students to think about their own lives now and in the future.

Young people, as peace-makers of the satellite parish Higashi Hiroshima, and Sr. Masako Miyake, SNDdeN welcome the new Bishop of the Hiroshima Diocese, Bishop Manyo Maeda.

Sisters in Higashi Hiroshima belong to a satellite Parish Church. At a gathering to understand more about the plight of the victims, a graduate of our school described her work mostly for children. The local welfare commissioner, responsible for taking care of the families from the Disaster Zone, shared her experiences. All attending the meeting, Christians, Buddhists and other denominations prayed the Rosary together. At the opening of the Year of Faith, the Bishops pointed out the current social situation in Japan. They asked Japanese Catholics to “share ideas with each other, and search for measures and expressions for New Evangelization with people inside and outside of the Church, while listening to the voices of suffering people.”


From: Good Works, August 2013. Visit our Good Works Archive and download a copy.

In 2014, SNDdeN will celebrate the 90th anniversary of our Mission in Japan. We hope to listen more to the voices of our people and collaborate with the Church as peacemakers.

Action for Change in a New Era

By Sisters Phyllis Cook and Lucy Musembi, SNDdeN

Notre-Dame-Goes-to-KenyaNotre Dame in Kenya celebrates a Golden Jubilee (1965-2015), a time of gratitude for the gifts of fifty years and hope for a new future! When the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) arrived in Kenya in 1965, education was considered a priority for the newly independent nation. Full of hopeful expectation, the country faced dramatic changes. In educating the young, the Sisters contributed much to the changing environment in the early years and throughout these fifty years.

Today in 2015, Kenya has developed enormously and is becoming gradually a developed country, despite many internal problems. Aware of increasing violence, based on discrimination within our global reality, the Sisters in the Kenya Unit realise the need to facilitate education for change. Technology has led to growth in many areas, even in the financial realm. However, the economic gap between the rich and those living in poverty increases every day.

Sisters-in-Kenya-Unit-opened-the-Jubilee-YearJubilee Gift of Growth
As educators, the Sisters are experiencing a call for personal, communal and societal transformation, leading to tolerance, justice and peace. During the Church’s Year of Consecrated Life, they are beginning the next chapter of life with the entire Notre Dame Congregation. Multiple blessings emanate from a religious congregation which is international. During Notre Dame’s fifty-years in Kenya, Sisters from Congo, Japan, Nigeria, United Kingdom (UK), and USA have served in various ministries for extended periods of time. Presently, twenty-one professed Sisters carry on the legacy of the Kenya Unit. Fourteen Sisters are Kenyans. Inspired by the spirit of St. Julie, alive in the communities and ministries of Sisters, ten young women are currently discerning entrance into our Congregation.

Sr.-Maximilla-Matuba..Notre Dame Owned Ministry
Rooted in Kenyan life, the Sisters yearn for ministries on Notre Dame owned land. Today Malava, in Kakamega Diocese, has a flourishing school opened in January 2010 with a small class of 3 year olds who are now in Class 3. The school continues to grow in modern, well-equipped classrooms. A new building is almost ready to accommodate a full elementary school with classes from Grades 1 to 8.

The Sisters’ ministries cross the whole range of education, not only in schools but also in the wider sense of being with people as they strive for self-reliance. A strong focus on justice and peace calls the Sisters to greater awareness of our world in crisis and to action for change in a new era. As Kenya still reels from the Garissa University attack, the Sisters look forward to acting on principles of justice and peace in their ministries among the people and in their own lives.

Sr-Mary-and-Fr-HansBeginnings in Collaboration
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have always collaborated with the Church, religious congregations and local communities in their ministries in Kenya. The first five Sisters brought St. Julie Billiart’s living charism by proclaiming the goodness of God in small communities and expanding ministries. They began teaching at St. Mary’s Girls’ Secondary School and St. Lawrence’s Teacher Training College in Egoji. Each year, more Sisters arrived. Both primary and secondary teachers-in-training profited from the Sisters’ expertise and experience in several places, including Eregi Teachers’ Training College in Western Kenya and Kenyatta University College near Nairobi. In catechetical teams and as parish ministers, the Sisters helped to teach new methods in religious education at all levels across the country. The Sisters opened schools in the dioceses of Meru, Kakamega and Lodwar. They knew that the schools, once established, would be given to local Religious Congregations. Bishop Sulumeti Girls’ Secondary School in Kakamega is one of these schools. At the invitation of the Bishop, Sisters spent twelve years opening and grounding students in a solid education. Recently, one SNDdeN spent five years on the staff of this school which educates today over 900 young women. Two alumnae are Notre Dame Sisters who continue to spread God’s goodness.

From the beginning, the Sisters networked closely with local Congregations, and helped to establish the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya. SNDdeN contributed to formation programs for seminarians and other women religious. Serving in very poor areas of Nairobi and Kisumu, the Sisters collaborated with the Mill Hill Fathers in assisting local communities to move towards a better quality of life.

Music-and-choirsChildren Living with Disabilities
In different towns /cities, our Sisters have educated disabled children. Several Sisters joined the staff at St. Lucy’s School for the Blind at Egoji. Others worked with children living with disabilities in the Challenge Program in Nairobi. For ten years, St. Julie’s Centre for Disabled Children in Malava gave needed support for educating those in need. Today, the fruits of this ministry remain visible. Our Sisters are not strangers to life in the desert. One Sister became the headmistress in Marsabit Girls’ Secondary School, a new and struggling school. Three Sisters went to Lodwar where they founded a Girls’ Primary School. One of them travelled the desert roads throughout Turkana strengthening religious education in the diocese and in helping the women become more self-sufficient. Two Kenyan Sisters first met our Sisters in Lodwar. The Sisters hope that St. Julie’s daughters will again minister in the future among the Turkana people.

Srs.-Jane-and-EvalyneOngoing Life in Mission
Life in Mission relies on continuing education of the Sisters since the beginning of the Kenya Unit. Through study, the Sisters become more caring, professional teachers, knowledgeable and astute stewards of resources, effective communicators, versatile and compassionate social ministers. Education prepares Sisters for the future and moves systems to action for transformation in society and change in our Church and world.

Source: Good Works, June 2015. pp. 4-7. Reprinted with permission. GWJune2015

Changing Times in Protecting Our Planet

by Sister Claudine Dumbi, SNDdeN

Sr. Claudine teaches the farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo principles of sustainable farming.
Sr. Claudine teaches the farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo principles of sustainable farming.

Sr. Claudine works in the “fields” of food security and sustainability. Prior to the March 18, 2015 release of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, she wrote: “Many persons together can effect global change. The responsibility for protecting our planet belongs to all of us.” Today the Sisters call each other to … Learn more