Members of Toronto’s Japanese Catholic Community offer special prayers for Japan on the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that struck March 11, 2011. Photo by Michael Swan

Toronto's prayers offered on anniversary of Japanese earthquake

  • March 13, 2012

TORONTO - Though they’ve watched from a distance, Toronto’s Japanese Catholic Community has prayed with intensity for Japan as the country continues to rebuild following the devastation of the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck March 11, 2011.

The small group gathered on the first anniversary of the disaster for its regular monthly Mass, and special prayers for Japan.

Many of the Japanese Catholics at Mass had come from an ecumenical and interfaith prayer service earlier in the day at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.

The most powerful quake in Japan’s recorded history killed 20,000 and triggered a massive crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The power plant meltdown eventually forced an evacuation of 100,000 residents from the area.

A year later, Japan is rediscovering traditional values that have equipped its society to cope with disaster, said Kumiko Gonzalez at dinner following the Toronto Japanese Catholic Community Mass at the Scarboro Missions chapel.

“They emphasize harmony,” said Gonzalez. “At one point, Japan was really materialistic. After the tsunami people realized that old-fashioned ways are very important.”

The ways being rediscovered include an emphasis on “Kizuna.” Represented by two kanji characters meaning “bond” or “ties,” it’s a concept Catholics would associate with solidarity and communion, said Yuka Okada.

That traditional Japanese values would come to the fore doesn’t surprise veteran missionary Fr. Tom O’Toole.

“They work as a group, you know,” said the Scarboro Missions priest who spent 27 years in Japan. “They knuckle down. They’re tough.”

Visiting Toronto from Japan, Redemptorist Father Yoshiyuki Hagihara said the prospect of decades of cleaning up and rebuilding after the quake had brought a new seriousness to Japanese society. Unemployment, loss of the fishery, fears about radiation-affected food and the realization many have been left isolated in the Tohoku region hardest hit by the quake has caused people to try to reclaim a sense of community. Television announcers have urged prayers on behalf of quake victims, teams of volunteers are making door-to-door checks on the elderly and volunteer cleaning crews have recovered and cleaned thousands of family photographs from the rubble, said Hagihara.

People who have lost everything are able to search the recovered photographs for family and friends they haven’t seen since the quake.

“Some people lost their daughters and sons. These people remember their sons and daughters in the pictures only. They want to keep the memory,” said Hagihara.

Mariko Lilifeldt has faith in the Japanese will to survive.

“They lost everything, but they didn’t lose hope,” she said. “They never give up.”

“They are more community focussed now,” said Yuka Okada.


Prayers for the victims of Japan Disaster of March 11

O God, full of mercy, you are always with us and share our joys and sorrows.
Help and encourage those who still suffer from last year's earthquake of March 11th.
We offer sacrifices for them and pray for them. May those people affected by the quake and tsunami live safely soon.
May those who lost their lives rest in peace with you.
We offer you thanks through Christ Our Lord. Amen.


Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible, which has become acutely important amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.