It is my heartfelt pleasure to be invited here today to the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo and to share with you this joyous occasion.
I studied at the junior and senior high school here at Sankocho for six years from 1947, soon after the end of the war. Together with the following four years at the University of the Sacred Heart, it means that for altogether ten years of my student days I was able to receive the education of the Sacred Heart. I consider this my great good fortune.
In those days at the school, there were many nuns whom we called "Mothers" who undertook our education, together with the teachers and staff. Those nuns were all wearing loose-fitting black habits. From the pockets of their skirts, they would take out not only their own notebooks and pencils but various things the students needed. At one time, a folding knife was followed by a pair of scissors, which we had asked for without really expecting to get. We were amazed and overjoyed. However, it was not just their mysterious clothes that made the nuns special for us students. Even as young girls, who were still immature about everything and easily critical of others, we could not help noticing that their activities as educators were always conducted in meditation and prayer. For them, teaching was more than a job or a profession?it was more like a calling?and I think we were vaguely aware of that.
Together with the Mothers who were responsible for our education, I cannot forget another group of nuns of the Order of the Sacred Heart whom we called "Sisters" who engaged in chores around the school. I think we learned much from their sincere attitude to their work, and the way they would walk in prayer unobtrusively around the school grounds in between their chores. Through them, the beauty of a person working with sincerity was etched deeply in our young minds. For each and every graduate engaged in various work at home and in society after leaving school, I feel that this must have served as a truly precious learning experience as well as an encouragement.
Many of the nuns who taught us in this way are now laid to rest in the beautiful cemetery at Susono at the foot of Mt. Fuji. And as I remember them fondly with utmost gratitude, my heart also goes to those nuns who have continued to dedicate their lives through an age, after my time at the school and thereafter, which in a sense has been more complex and difficult, a period when the Order of the Sacred Heart had to close one after another the many schools they had operated around the world. Though swayed by the reform and change brought about by the Second Vatican Council, the nuns of the Sacred Heart preserved the light of education proposed by their founder and nurtured it in the School of the Sacred Heart in Japan as it is today. I would like to take this opportunity today to express, with gratitude, my deepest love and respect for all of them.
A few years ago, at Senjogahara in Nikko, I happened to come across some children of the Sacred Heart engaged in the sport of orienteering. The children, who came running from behind us, greeted us politely and ran past us one after another. One of them turned back and told us happily, "When we reach the goal, kocho-sama (the head mistress) is waiting for us."
The founder of the Order of the Sacred Heart, Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat's biography describes a scene where the early Mothers, fired with the zeal of the founding spirit, say to one another, "We are measured by the weight of our love for our children." From the happy bounce in the child's words "waiting for us" I could fathom the deep love kocho-sama and the teachers are bestowing upon the children every day, and the thought made me truly happy.
On this 100th anniversary, my thoughts are with the many people who brought the School of the Sacred Heart to Japan and nurtured it. I would like to pray that the school will have many happy days ahead, as it starts a new chapter here today. And I would like to close by offering, to those pupils and students who are fortunate enough to be at the school in this commemorative year and attending this ceremony today, my sincere prayer that, they be blessed with health and happiness as they grow into maturity.