A New Dawn
However, when Japan was re-opened to Western contacts 250 years later, it was found that a community of Japanese Christians had survived underground.
They were left without clergy, without the Bible, with only very sketchy instructions in the doctrines of the faith, but with a firm commitment to Jesus as Lord.
The Oura Catholic Church in Nagasaki was built by French missionary priests originally to tend to Catholic foreign sailors while their ships were in the port.
It featured in the discovery of the "hidden Christians" of Nagasaki, who kept their Christian Faith alive from generation to generation during 250 years of the prohibition of the Christian religion.
Historic brick buildings and streets paved with stones recall the greatest days of Nagasaki in the 15th century, when it was considered the "main door" of Japan to the world.
But although Western sciences and technology were introduced to Japan through Nagasaki, an ironic and sad twist of history caused the city to suffer from an atomic bomb on 9th August 1945 during World War II.
An added twist of fate that was the atomic bomb exploded over the Catholic cathedral; there was no other place in Japan where the same device would have killed as many Christians.
Since that tragedy, Nagasaki has engaged earnestly in a global effort to achieve world peace.
For all these reasons and many others, Nagasaki occupies a special place in heart of the Japanese people. Even to this day, it is perceived as a place of cultural variety, hospitality and peace.
In the modern era the first three American Augustinian priests reached
Nagasaki on 22nd November 1952.
They arranged the purchase of a building and five acres of land from the Marianist Brothers in the Shiroyama area of
Nagasaki – which is still the Augustinian site today.
They then moved to
Tokyo for language studies, and on 28th August 1953 Bishop Yamaguchi blessed their Priory of Our Mother of Consolation.
The Priory was used as a public chapel, while the priests then continued their Japanese language studies locally.
On 28th August 1954 construction began on a more suitable monastery building and on a hall to serve as a temporary church.
On 1st November 1954 the foundation stone of the temporary church was laid.
The buildings were completed by Christmas, and the Parish of Shiroyama was officially proclaimed by Bishop Yamaguchi.
In the parish boundaries containing 50,000 people there were 1,300 Catholics – mostly descendants of the “hidden Christians” during centuries of persecution.
On 1st May 1955 a new parish church (see aerial photo on next page) was dedicated, and the temporary church hall became used as a child centre and kindergarten,
Later the Augustinians began construction of a Catholic parochial school, which now also has the first half of high school education (middle school).
(Continued on the next page.)
To view the photo gallery of the Augustinians in Nagasaki in this web site, select Japan: Nagasaki after you click here.