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Toward the 90th Anniversary of the Arrival of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame in Japan (Part 4)

Rose Cauchon, CND

(Vol. 4) From “The Narrow Road to Japan: In the Footsteps of Marguerite Bourgeoys” by Rose Cauchon, CND.

In this issue, I would like to introduce a benefactor from the early days of the mission, Reverend Yaroku Ebi.

To provide information about the pastor of the church at that time, Rev. Yaroku Ebi was born in Tono Town, Iwate Prefecture, as the sixth child of a Buddhist family. Under the influence of a priest of the Society of Foreign Missions in Paris who came to visit that town, a longing for priesthood grew in his young heart. When all the siblings of the Ebi family were baptized, he was fourteen years old at the time. As a Christian, he was looked down upon at school and had to endure a lot of persecution but eventually, his vocation was recognized, and he was sent to Rome by the Paris Foreign Missionaries. After six years of study, he received a doctorate in theology and philosophy, and after returning to Japan, he was appointed pastor of the church in Fukushima. He was a mild-mannered, saintly priest with a beautiful tenor voice and an aristocratic appearance.

He would occasionally come to celebrate Mass, but he also lent his wisdom to missionary work. He suggested that we hold a western cooking class to reach out to women who would like to learn, and hold Christmas Night Mass at the convent, making it the first solemn Mass with Gregorian chants in Fukushima. The plan was steadily put into action, and on Sunday afternoon, November 6, twelve men and fifteen women, including a woman with a baby on her back, gathered for singing practice. The practice was held in a small eight-mat parlour with an interpreter.

In July of 1933, Father Ebi, a true apostle and true friend, fell ill with tuberculosis and had to rest for three months. At his request, Fr. Jean-Marie Dionne took over as his successor, and on August 27, in tears, I attended his farewell Mass in the church and saw him off to Nazareth Home. He left behind many apostolic words, but ones that have stayed with me were: “I put three forces into the conversion of girls but seven forces into the conversion of boys.”

The dedication ceremony of the monastery was held at 10:00 a.m. on May 23, 1935. Bishop Andre Dumas blessed the monastery and then offered a solemn Mass. Fr. Ebi, who attended the ceremony despite his illness, said with emotion, “Every night, I blessed Fukushima City from the balcony of the priory on the mountain.”

Father Ebi, who had been hospitalized at Our Lady’s Hospital since September of the previous year (1935) due to his deteriorating condition, returned to heaven on March 17. The director of the hospital, who visited him before his death, was moved to see him ready for death, and he sent his final blessing to the sisters.

 

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