Seventy years on, the Marist Fathers Australia and supporters of the Marist Mission Centre, May 1, joined together in Sydney to mark the birth of the mission to Japan.
The idea of the “Japanese mission” was born in a Japanese Prison camp.
At the fall of Singapore in 1942, Fr Lionel Marsden SM was serving as Chaplain to the 13th Australian General Hospital (AGH), part of Australia’s 8th Division.
Captured by the Japanese, as Chaplain in the prison camp, Fr Marsden was a prisoner too and with them in sickness, buried them when they died, and worked with them on the Burma Railway.
Determined to go to Japan as a missionary, Fr Marsden took as his slogan: “For every sleeper lain; a Christian Japanese, for every Australian life; a Christian Japanese.”
“For every sleeper lain; a Christian Japanese, for every Australian life; a Christian Japanese.”
Eventually, Rome gave its permission to establish a mission to Japan.
The permission came with two requirements: the Australian Province would supply the men and fund the enterprise.
On April 3, 1949, Fr Marsden was appointed the first superior of the Japanese Marist Mission.
Over 400 supporters gathered in the vestibule of the Lower Town Hall in Sydney to listen to Fr Marsden share his story, his vision, his enduring hope as they farewelled him on his journey to Japan.
Fr Marsden may have had the vision and determination, but with so many emaciated images of prisoners of war returning home, anti-Japanese feelings were strong in Australia and establishing the mission was a slow and challenging process.
A mission cannot survive on vision, determination, good intentions and prayer alone.
A vital component of the success of the mission to Japan was the Marist Japan Mission League.
The League’s was to assist Australian Marists in their efforts to share the Catholic faith and its ideals of Christian life especially those of compassion and forgiveness to the Japanese.
Over the years the shape of the mission has changed.
Much wider than Japan the Marist Mission Centre makes a significant contribution in
- “Balay Pasilungan” – a safe place for young street boys and Davao City, Philippines.
- Balay Banaag – a safe house for girls at risk in Davao City, Philippines.
- Solomon Islands.
- Ranong – Southern Thailand.
It also has a significant role to play in the Society of Mary’s global international mission.
However, throughout its 70 years and seven directors, the focus of what is now called the Marist Mission Centre has always been on the other, the disadvantaged, the alienated, the dispossessed.
Not content to be an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, the Marist Mission Centre also also focusses on development projects and the alleviation of poverty.
While needs and circumstances change, the Marist Mission Centre hopes that some things will not change.
Namely, the Centre hopes that the vision of one man, Lionel Marsden, and the first members of the Japanese Marist Mission League is enshrined in an enduring legacy of generosity.
And, that succeeding generations of friends and donors, who from the most unlikely of beginnings, continue to produce such unexpected and extraordinary outcomes.
A brief history, marking 70 years 1949 – 2019
From Unlikely Beginnings: Marking 70 years of mission to Japan by the Marist Fathers. (PDF)
- Supplied: Jim Carty SM