Fr Joseph Broderick

The unfinished story of a valiant woman

By Fr Joseph Broderick

The author is a Columban priest from Ireland. He was ordained in 1969. He went to Japan in 1970 and, apart from six years working in Britain, 1994 to 2000, has beenthere ever since.

When we think of the missionary work of the Columbans in Japan we must not forget the Trojan work done by Japanese catechists. Very often they were the right-hand ‘Samurai’ of trailblazing Columban missionaries. One such catechist is Miss Tsuneko Hinata.

She was born into a traditional Buddhist family, grew up in the Buddhist tradition and after high school became a professional working woman in a company, but never married. At the age of 40, she ran into crisis time: ‘What is life all about? What am I working like a slave for? What happens to me after death?’

She went searching for answers in the Catholic Church. There she found Christ and her answers, and then went on to receive baptism. She was filled with joy and a new conviction.

But another crisis arose: ‘What do I do with this new joy and conviction? I have to share it with others. How can I do that?’

She decided to quit her professional career in the company and enter the Japanese Catechist School. As a newly graduated catechist she was first employed by the late New Zealand, Columban Fr James Norris and thus began her long journey working full-time for the church, with the Columbans, for meager wages and within even more ‘meager’ living quarters. She became the mouthpiece of the language-struggling Columbans, taught daily the doctrine to truth-seeking searchers, visited the sick at home and in hospital, walked with the newly baptized on their journey of faith in a non-faith environment, and became a spiritual mother to all her spiritual children. She took no credit for her work. It was her way of living out the Gospel.

In Tsuneko's life, she jumped from being a professional worker into the waters of baptism; jumped from the waters of baptism into the catechetical profession and from there she landed in the Columban world.