From the Director
If you are a regular reader of Columban Mission, you are used to seeing Fr. Tom Mulroy's face on this page. He is the new international leader of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, and I have been appointed to take his place. I am Fr. John Burger, born and raised in the Philadelphia area, and it is my privilege to communicate with you on behalf our Columbans around the world. I hope you will come to think of me as a friend.
Over the years, I have had quite a few different assignments. God has been good to me, and I have always considered my appointment to the mission in Japan as one example that. In my early years there, I was lucky enough to be mentored as a missionary priest by Fathers Michael Scully and Tom Tehan. Later, in small parishes, I also learned a lot from Sister Midori Shinozaki, DHM, and Sister Hashimoto, DC.
My last assignment in Japan was at Sts. Simon and Jude Parish in Fujisawa City in the Yokohama diocese. That parish was the largest and indeed most vibrant parish the Columbans had in Japan. I cannot take credit for the parish's success. For one thing, I was very conscious that I was standing on the shoulders of other Columbans who had given Fujisawa their very best. Previous pastors and assistant pastors had spent numerous hours getting to know the people, preparing sermons and talks, visiting their homes, accompanying them in good times and in bad.
Nearly every parish event seemed to have women doing the planning and organizing.
Some people would tell you that the secret to Fujisawa's success was its convenient location, close to the rail station, the Odakyu and Enoshima Dentetsu private lines. Some would claim, with plenty of justification, that being close to two large Catholic High Schools for Girls and Eiko Jesuit Prep School was a boon to the parish.
But now I am prepared to put on paper what I think really made Fujisawa so alive: the women of the parish. Nearly every parish event seemed to have women doing the planning and organizing. The parish center in a typical week would have women participating classes in painting, English, Italian, Japanese for Vietnamese refugees, the Bible, prayer, or introduction to Catholicism. On a typical Friday afternoon, the women would be baking madeleines to sell on Sundays, singers or a bell choir might be practicing in the hall. Women volunteers would be working in the religious goods shop selling books and cards and gifts. There was a strict division of labor; men looked after the trees in the garden, did minor repairs, and put up the outdoor Christmas decorations, set up for the parish bazaar, but the women were the force that moved the parish forward and kept it the vibrant place it was. There you have it. My secret is out.