Japan: contact made with religious congregations near quake epicentre

Sendai before the quake

Sendai before the quake

A number of Catholic institutes and religious congregations were near the earthquake epicentre and the subsequent tsunami which devastated the Japanese coastline on Friday. One priest is known to have died and three priests are missing. Other communities appear to be safe, although some of their buildings have been damaged.

The Canadian missionary Fr André Lachapelle, from the Society for Foreign Missions of Quebec, who has worked in Japan since 1961, was whisked away by the waves of the tsunami while in his car travelling to his parish of Shiogama.

The Brothers of the Christian Schools in Sendai informed their General House in Rome that they are all safe, including the children aged 3 to 18 years housed in their facilities. Their main problem now says Fr Jorge from the General House, is lack of food and fuel. The community of men religious in Sendai is composed of four Mexican, two Japanese and one Canadian. The Daughters of St Paul, with 13 communities and 140 religious sisters in Japan, also have a book shop in Sendai: the eight sisters are safe and sound. Two of them are particularly suffering from shock,  says the Secretary-General. Their house was damaged, but it is still habitable. There are also damages to the book shop, located in the city centre. According to information provided by the Paulines in Japan, three priests are missing.

The General Curia of the Dominican Sisters of the Roman Congregation of St Dominic, said the Congregation has five houses in Sendai, with 41 religious sisters, all Japanese. They are all fine, and the buildings have not suffered particular damage because they are located near the centre of town and not near the sea. The Provincial Prioress of the Congregation said there was initial concern for two major projects run by the Dominicans: a school and an orphanage, with a children's centre that currently assists 80 children and young people in difficulty, but say the latest news is 'encouraging'.

The Dominicans  in Sendai are six priests and 12 sisters. Fr Juan Pablo, secretary to the General Master, reports to Fides that they are still unable to make contact with their brethren in Japan, but through other people they heard that they are well, although one of the houses seems to have been completely destroyed.

The Society for Foreign Missions of Bethlehem has received assurances that its three priests, who have the pastoral care of four parishes, three of them along the coast, are all well. One of them works near the nuclear power plant.

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