Notre Dame Study Center

Notre Dame Study Center, Oita, Japon.

In June, 1969, to answer a request from Bishop Saburo Hirata, Bishop of the Diocese of Oita, it was decided to open a CND mission in Oita. Oita is a city where one of the first Catholic churches in Japan was built when St. Francis Xavier was evangelizing in Japan in the 16th century.

On March 31, 1970, the new convent built in Dan Noharu Heights, a new development in the suburbs of the city, became the home of four sisters: Sister Ruriko Abe, local leader, Sister Rose Cauchon, Sister Rita MacKinnon and Sister Ryo Yukawa. Their first mission was to the students and teachers and their families of the neighbouring University of Oita.

In what was called Notre Dame Study Center, in a small language laboratory in the building, English classes were provided for university students, elementary school students and adults Sister Rita MacKinnon and later Sister Madelyn Brennan taught English not only as a language, but also had Bible study classes in English. A seminar for English teachers held every summer in Oita Prefecture made a great contribution to raising the level of English education in the prefecture.

Sister Ryo Yukawa, in cooperation with priests of the Salesian Fathers of John Bosco, gathered university students for Bible studies as well as reading groups, volunteer activities and short retreats. In this way the Gospel message was promulgated.

The 20 sisters who were missioned to Oita worked in various areas to spread the Gospel message. In the area of pre-school education they gathered the small children twice a week in the hall on the first floor of the centre. At the same time, on the second floor, Sister Yukawa talked with the mothers about child-rearing and also conducted Bible studies.

In 1977 two CND sisters began to work at Kaisei Kindergarten, where they were involved in the education of the children and in religion classes for the parents. If the sisters were to travel to the kindergarten by bus, it would take about one hour, but the priest who came to the convent for morning Mass stayed for breakfast and kindly drove the sisters to the kindergarten.

Two sisters were also asked to teach Bible and Ethics at Oita Women’s Junior College and Tomei High School. Those students were also invited to the convent and as part of the program had a chance to pray in the chapel. For many of them it was their first experience and their joyful reaction was “Wow, I could pray”.

In 1995 because of the difficulty of finding CND personnel to send to Oita, the mission in Hinohara Heights was closed. The building and property were sold to the Salesian Fathers of Don Bosco.

For two years after that Sister Ryo Yukawa and Sister Rumiko Matsumiya lived in a small residence and continued the mission in Oita.

Meiji Gakuen (also known as École Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours)

Meiji Gakuen (also known as École Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours), institution founded in 1949, Tobata, Japan, [between 1951 and 1959]. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

Meiji Gakuen has a unique history as a Catholic school. In 1910, it was founded by Keiijiro Yasukawa and Kenjiro Matsumoto as an elementary school and a branch of Meiji Technical School (now Kyushu University of Technology). When it was established, there were twenty-three students. At the end of World War II, Mr. Yasukawa, who wished to put all his energy into rebuilding his company, wanted to withdraw from the school’s administration. The university already had been transferred to the Department of Education of Japan and a junior high section had been added to the elementary school. As a result, on September 5, 1949, Meiji Gakuen was transferred to the Congrégation de Notre-Dame and became a Catholic school. During the process leading up to the transfer, Father René Rouillier, MEP, pastor of Tobata Catholic Church, and Mr. Junzo Fukushima, a Catholic and an employee of the Yasukawa Company, worked very hard to make this transfer possible. From that time to 1984, Mr. Fukushima was a director in the administration of Meiji Gakuen. The first sisters to come to Meiji Gakuen were: Sister Sainte-Marguerite-de-l’Enfant-Jésus (Anne-Marie-Rose-de-Lima Cauchon), superior of the convent and principal of the school; Sister Sainte-Marie-Damase (Marie-Laura Gauthier-Landreville); Sister Sainte-Maria-Hostia (Anna Tomiko Saito); Sister Sainte-Marie-Théophane-Venard (Germaine Masako Anazawa).

The next year, in 1950, Meiji Gakuen Senior High School for girls was founded. In its first year, the senior high school had sixty-one students, seven teaching sisters and six lay teachers. Ten years later, when Meiji Gakuen celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation, the elementary, junior high, and senior high schools combined had a total of one thousand, five hundred and twenty students with a staff of eighty. During the next twenty years, and as the student body grew, besides ensuring quality education, an administration building, an auditorium, two gymnasiums, a library and two classroom-wings were added to the facilities. In 1984, at the time of the Canonization of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, a new building for the elementary school was built near the main gate and, on a prominent elevation on the outside wall of the building, a statue of Saint Marguerite was erected. For a long time, the parents of the boys in the junior high school had been asking that their sons also be accepted in the senior high school. In 1990, on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of foundation, the request was granted. In April 1992, Meiji Gakuen was a school that offered a twelve-year program of education to both girls and boys. To accommodate the increase in student population, a gymnasium, a wing of classrooms and two sports fields were added to the facilities. The next big change in the history of Meiji Gakuen took place in 2008. The Congrégation de Notre-Dame’s educational institutions, which had been independent school corporations, were combined into one called the School Corporation of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. All the schools adopted the same mission statement. Now, with more than one hundred years of history, Meiji Gakuen is home to more than one thousand, nine hundred students and a staff of over one hundred and fifty, all of whom work in collaboration and are inspired by the educational heritage of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys.

NB: This text was written using documents found in the archival holdings in our possession and does not constitute a complete administrative history of the teaching establishment.

Sakura no Seibo Gakuin (Elementary School, High School and Junior College) - École Notre-Dame-des-Cerisiers (primaire, secondaire et collège junior)

Sakura no Seibo Gakuin (Elementary School, High School and Junior College) - École Notre-Dame-des-Cerisiers (primaire, secondaire et collège junior), institution founded in 1938, Fukushima, Japan, 2014. Photo : Mr. Yusuke Okuyama. © Sakura no Seibo Gakuin Elementary School.

Sakura no Seibo Gakuen in Fukushima, Japan, is a modest Congrégation de Notre-Dame school. Since 1938 (barring the five years of World War II the Pacific), it has continued its mission sustained by the patience, dreams and prayers of the sisters. In 1932, five sisters were missioned to Fukushima from Canada: Sister Saint-Arcadius (Marie-Rose-Marcelline Olivier), the Congregation leader until just before leaving for Japan; Sister Marie-Damase (Marie-Laura-Emérence Gauthier, dit Landreville), nurse; Sister Sainte-Jeanne-d’Aza (Marie-Flore Antoinette Castonguay), French teacher; Sister Sainte-Marguerite-de-l’Enfant-Jésus (Anne-Marie-Rose-de-Lima Cauchon), musician; Sister Sainte-Marie-Agnès-de-la-Charité (Joséphine Dillon), cooking teacher. At that time, Pope Pius XI had appealed for “Spreading the Gospel in Asia” and missionary zeal had spread in the western world. As a result the five sisters travelled across Canada to Vancouver and took a ship to Japan. There were eighteen missionaries on the ship. When the five sisters arrived in Fukushima, they lived in a rented Japanese-style house in Shin-machi, where they struggled to familiarize themselves with the customs of Japan. It is recorded that, at that time, about thirty Catholics attended Christmas Mass in the parish church. The sisters began to teach religion on an individual basis. In 1933, two additional Canadian sisters, Sister Saint-Jean-d’Avila (Léocadie Tremblay) and Sister Sainte-Marie-Anne (Marie-Mélina Chicoine) arrived in Fukushima.

In 1935, in the area that would later be named Hanazono-cho, a two-story wooden building was erected as a convent. It was a beautiful building. Many people attended the blessing ceremony and the event was also reported in the newspaper. The central part of the building was the convent area and the south wing became the kindergarten. In 1936, when four more sisters arrived from Canada, a clinic was opened in the north wing. In 1938, the kindergarten named Hinagiku (Marguerite) Kindergarten opened. At that time, Japanese women began to join us and everyone believed that the flower of Congrégation de Notre-Dame education had begun to bloom in Japan. In 1937, however, war between Japan and China began. In December 1941, when the United States entered World War II, our Canadian sisters were considered the enemy and lost their freedom. From 1942 to August 1945, they were interned in Aizu-wakamatsu with three Japanese candidates: Sister Tomiko Saito (Sainte-Maria-Hostia), Sister Tome Sasamori (Sainte-Thérèse-de-Marie) and Sister Kimi Ogata (Sainte-Angéline-de-Jésus). During that time, Hanazono-cho Convent became an internment facility for foreign prisoners from many countries who had been captured aboard ships in or near the war zone. When the war ended in August 1945, the sisters returned to Fukushima. Other Japanese women soon joined us. In 1946, nineteen war orphans were welcomed in our convent. At last our Congrégation de Notre-Dame education ministry began. Sakura no Seibo Elementary School was founded for the orphans who were of school age. The kindergarten reopened and, gradually, the junior high school, senior high school and junior college were founded to meet the needs of the students as they grew older. Sakura no Seibo Gakuen’s educational program totalled sixteen years. After the war, as the relationship between Japan and North America improved, many sisters came to Japan from Canada and the United States. We increased to forty and the majority taught at Sakura no Seibo Gakuen. Currently, there are fifteen Japanese and Canadian sisters working full-time at Sakura no Seibo Gakuen. Fukushima is primarily an agricultural area, In March 2011, after the triple disaster that hit Northeastern Japan, the number of students decreased significantly. At present, there are about one thousand, one hundred students.

Less than one percent of the population of Japan is Catholic. As a result, the majority of students and their parents are not Catholic, but they are very open to Christianity. The students say the Our Father and Hail Mary every day, and welcome the message of love and justice into their lives. It is a work of evangelization that requires patience and perseverance. However, in every period of the Congregation’s history, Marguerite’s daughters have earnestly and sincerely spread the Good News which, we believe, have penetrated the hearts of at least some of our students and their parents.

NB: This text was written using documents found in the archival holdings in our possession and does not constitute a complete administrative history of the teaching establishment.

Margarita Yochien (École maternelle Marguarita)

Margarita Yochien (École maternelle Marguarita), institution founded in 1961, Chofu (Tokyo), Japan, 1967. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

In September 1956, the community purchased land at 595-603 Shimoishihara in Chofu. Five years later, in January 1961, permission was granted by the government to open a kindergarten on the property. Its first principal was Sister Saint-Jean-de-la-Lande (Adéline Langlois). The kindergarten, established as a branch of Sakura no Seibo Gakuin School Corporation, welcomed its first children on April 8, 1961. While the enrollment quota was one hundred and twenty, there is no record of how many children attended at that time. By the 1970s, the quota had increased to two hundred and forty. In 1986, the former kindergarten was replaced by a new two-story building of reinforced concrete.

The principals of the kindergarten are as follows:

1961-1962      Sister Saint-Jean-de-la-Lande (Adéline Langlois)

1962-1966      Sister Sainte-Thérèse-de-Marie (Tome Sasamori)

1966-1975      Sister Maria-Philomena (Eiko Kishiwada)

1975-1981      Sister Maria-Stella-Matutina (Ekiko Kimura)

1981-1992      Sister Mitsuko Yamaguchi

1992-2011      Sister Tsugiyo Yoshida

2011-             Sister Hoshiko Yamashita

Unique programs at Margarita Kindergarten:

Hoshi no Kai

A gathering for kindergarten graduates

This program, begun in 1970, replaced the Sunday School, which had been part of the initial Chofu Convent. In the beginning the sisters, including the candidates in formation, carried out the program. However, since Sister Yamaguchi’s time as principal, it has been offered one Saturday a month by the kindergarten teachers.

English Education

There is no record of when English education began. However, according to our records from 2002, the teachers always have been of English origin.

Gymnastics and Soccer

Since 2005, as a special after-school program, gymnastics and soccer have been offered twice a month.

In 2012, Margarita Kindergarten celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in Chofu Convent with a Mass of thanksgiving and a celebratory meal. It continues to welcome three, four, and five year-olds in large numbers every year.

NB: This text was written using documents found in the archival holdings in our possession and does not constitute a complete administrative history of the teaching establishment.

Wa-Yo-Gakko Gakuin (also known as École Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci)

Wa-Yo-Gakko Gakuin (also known as École Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci), institution founded in 1937, Hachinohe (Aomori), Japan, [between 1937 and 1941]. Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame - Montréal.

In 1937, five years after the first CND sisters arrived in Fukushima, they were asked by Bishop Marie-Joseph Lemieux, O.P. to go to Hachinohe. Sister St. Marie Damase and Sister Jeanne d’Aza answered the call. They taught piano and cooking in a school which was then called Japanese and Western Sewing School for Girls. At that time, the school was having difficulty to make ends meet. They also taught religion in the kindergarten of their parish church.

In 1938 the first two sisters were joined by 3 others: Sister St. Claire de la Providence, Sister Saint Augustine du Sauveur and Sister St. Alphonse de Valence. Where there had been only 12 students the number increased to 102 in four years.

When war broke out in 1941 the sisters were first interned in the city of Aomori but after that they were required to return to their country. After the war their school was transferred to the Ursuline Community and it continues its mission to this day, with one of its specialities being music education.

 A young woman who worked with the CND sisters in Hachinohe, Anna Saito Tomi, was one of the first Japanese women to enter the CND and become a foundation stone of Maria Province, Japan. Her name in religion was Sister St. Marie Hostia. 

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