FROM THE KEIHIN REGION (26) MEMORIAL: Fr. NEMOTO AKIO
[SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 143 / Apr. 15,2008]

Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)  
Franciscan Fr. NEMOTO Akio, whom I have introduced several times here in this Bulletin, died from septicemia and renal insufficiency in the evening of February 1, this year. He was 76 years old.
Fr. Nemoto was sent to work in the Republic of South Africa, as a missionary and after getting involved in the issues of apartheid from his position as Superior of the Franciscans there, moved to the Franciscan Care Center to work with AIDS patients.
The Center has only a capacity for 60 beds, but in 2003 about 317 patients died there. As a Hospice for terminal patients, the work to care for the sick has received special recognition. In the year 2004 it received an award "The 32nd Award for Distinguished Medical Services, the Overseas Section."
Later on, after making sure that the staff of the African terminal care center had been properly trained, Fr. Nemoto decided to move to Russia as a missionary to care for the AIDS patients there, realizing that no matter the limited official released figures given, there were plenty of patients there. After retiring from the Care Center, in November 1995, at the age of 73, Fr. Nemoto was sent to Russia.
When I heard the news I was astonished. He was already advanced in age and the numbers of AIDS in South Africa were on the increase. His services there for terminal patients, as well as the Anti Retro Viral (ARV) special treatment to hold the symptoms of HIV, that is in use for only a limited number of patients, had become highly recognized. On the other hand, at that time the government was starting to pay attention, gradually, to the poor sectors of the population suffering from AIDS and such activities were on the spotlight.
That is why I felt that the decision of Fr. Nemoto to make a witch in his life was quite worthy of praise.
Before departure Fr. Nemoto made clear his ambition: "I leave for Russia but my heart continues to care for the people I worked for in South Africa. The reason is because the issues concerning HIV are somehow similar in both countries. Solidarity is always possible going across borders." Nevertheless he collided in Russia against the walls of the system.
Russia does not easily issue 3-year missionary visas and when he was slowly getting acquaintances in his work he had continually to leave the country to be able to renew his visa. As a result, he could not proceed doing his work as he had planned.
Fr. Nemoto returned temporarily to Japan in 2007 and in September of that year was diagnosed with tuberculosis. On 18 September he entered the Fukujuji Hospital of Kiyose City and started to recover gradually. In January, after beginning rehabilitation there was strong hope for his recovery, but at the end of the month his health deteriorated and passed away, on February 1. My spontaneous impression after hearing the obituary news was, "He went away as he wished." Recently, a group of people loyal to him that wish to take over part of his past activities gathered together and celebrated a mourning memorial, last March in Shinjuku. They decided to establish a group to assist activities in South Africa.
Fr. Nemoto liked to repeat the words of Mother Theresa: "My work is nothing but a drop of water in the middle of the ocean. I wish to continue all my life being just a drop of water." Gone to heaven his will has started to flourish again in different ways.



Please, refer to past issues of this Bulletin that tell about Fr. Nemoto's work.
(Bulletin No. 120, 127, 138)
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