Social and Pastoral Bulletin_No. 84 Jun. 15, 1998


Kawachi Chiyo
(Jesuit Social Center)

During the last three days of Golden Week (May 3-5) the first seminar on Jesuit Volunteers took place in Shimonoseki`s Labor Exchange Center. The seminar was a new trial designed by the Social and Pastoral Committee of the Japanese province with the cooperation of Jesuit educational institutions. As a participating member in the planning I would like to offer an overall view of the whole event.
The Labor Exchange Center is located on a high hill and looks out down to the dark blue Kanmon Straights. It is only a 15-minute walk from the Shimonoseki railroad station, but one has to climb a very steep stone stairs going up to the top. The view of the bay and the mountains from the Center was splendid, and I fully enjoyed the delicious meals and the exchanges with the participants gathered together there. About half were male juniors (?) who slept together in a group, as if they were on a school excursion, and I myself looked back with nostalgic gratitude to my old school days.
In all thirty people actively participated in the live discussions. They came from
  • the 4 Jesuit Junior High Schools
  • Elisabeth University of Music
  • the Humanities Department of Sophia University
  • Sophia School of Social Welfare
  • Jesuit Scholasticate and Miki Heim
  • Labor Exchange Center
  • Tabiji no Sato (Kamagasaki)
  • Jesuit Social Center (Tokyo)
  • Hosoe and Yamaguchi parishes
  • the Social and Pastoral Committee
To these one has to add schools with close relationship to Jesuits like
  • Xavier (Onoda)
  • Shotoku (Matsue)
  • High Schools and Ikuei Technical School (Tokyo)
A few others could not participate due to their busy schedules during those days.
Jesuit volunteer organizations follow the guidelines expressed in the “Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice” of Jesuit General Congregation 32, and “Immersion in the World” . The Seminar, co-sponsored by both the Social and Pastoral Committee and the Educational Institutions, was a common endeavor inspired in the Jesuit General Congregation 34 and the `96 Province Forum. Members of the Social and Pastoral Committee and Tokyo`s social center divided themselves and visited Jesuit schools and some parishes to learn about present volunteer activities there. The results were published in a form of a report in early 1997. There was a common feeling that a volunteer network was strongly desired, as well as a hand book for volunteer work. Thus the seminar was planned, first for Jesuits and co-workers in educational institutions, as a step forward to try to start a network, by coming together to elaborate a common hand book for volunteer services.

The following gives an idea of the main program of the Shimonoseki seminar. The first afternoon was dedicated to presenting the main volunteer services and experiences of the institutions represented.

Then, Fr. Sumita, delegate to the Provincial, opened the seminar, and the three social centers (Kamagasaki, Shimonoseki and Tokyo) presented themselves. There was finally a short explanation of the Jesuit Volunteer Cooperation (JVC). In spite of lack of time to express fully the realities behind volunteer services and exposure programs run by the schools, we could share the well designed live experiences with all the problematic involved.

The morning session of the following day was inspired by a short input on the meaning of “volunteer”. The 4 groups established discussed some key principles for volunteer services to be treated in the hand book and these were presented to the whole assembly at the end of the morning session.

The afternoon session started with a short presentation on Development Education, followed by a “Trade game” done by all the participants. This was a simulation of international trade practices where the rich of industrial countries asked themselves, “since we have the time shall we do some volunteer work?” (What an irony!). At the same time, the poor countries were lamenting with grief, “there are no jobs for us; we are not even willing to do anything!” Each one, experiencing his/her own unjust circumstances, was completely caught into the rules of the game.

After a brief break, we went back into 4 different groups to design a hand book simulating its main outlines: preparations, practice of volunteer service and the post-reflection period. In a common consensus process it was decided to deal in separate groups with 4 case studies: Exposure tours in an Asian country, and in Kamagasaki (Osaka), volunteer services to expatriate people living in Japan, student`s visits to welfare institutions. All are cases either of activities going on or of planned new ones. They are concrete and deeply interesting. After a common sharing in the general assembly we offered mass together.

In the evening we had a pleasant buffet-dinner together with 11 members of citizens` groups of Shimonoseki. The Superior of the Yamaguchi-Shimane Jesuit district was also present. We spent our time in an atmosphere of cheerfulness and were much encouraged by listening to the dedication of the citizens of Shimonoseki involved in activities regarding the local environment, antinuclear movement, the 10-feet movement, Japanese war responsibility, East Timor independence, Yamaguchi`s NGO network, and other activities with regard to education, the disabled, translation into braille, the movement to ban all landmines, etc.

In the early morning of the third day we offered thanksgiving prayers and the mass within a warm atmosphere of an altar with East Timor themes wonderfully designed by the participants. The last morning session dealt with follow up matters: the continuation of producing a common hand book, the start of a volunteer network among the participants of the schools, the promotion of exchanges of information by using e-mail and articles, written by the participants, in the Social and Pastoral Bulletin published by Tokyo social center. Finally, the seminar closed after deciding on holding a similar one next year during the same golden week period. For two days, far into the night, we really shared and discussed things together. Next year, we will hold the seminar in Nagatsuka (Hiroshima) to try to finalize the hand book. Following a process of doing it together, we can gradually work with the content of the hand book and strengthen the network just started. At the same time, each school, supposed to be the main actor in this process, will accept more clearly its full involvement and widen the volunteer circle to students, teachers, parents, graduates and local citizens. I am looking forward to seeing this wide circle grow.
The time when the seminar was held, Golden Week, was quite inconvenient for some, because of the Otome Toge festival held those days and personal plans or already arranged family gatherings, but in spite of it, the fact that so many teachers and co-workers of Jesuit and other educational works came together in Shimonoseki had a very significant meaning. The volunteer network finally got off the ground, supported by a rich volunteer spirit of all participants.

Finally, my gratitude goes, of course, to the staff of the Labor Exchange Center who supported us from behind the scenes, to the Shimonoseki citizens so cooperative during the seminar, and to all participants. Let`s continue our cooperation, and the mutual exchange of information and opinions. We are busy now preparing a detailed report to be soon sent to everybody.