Before finishing her internship at the Congregational Mission Office in Ipswich, MA, Sister Kumiko Azuma, SNDdeN spent a week in Ohio. In Japan, Sister Kumiko teaches at Notre Dame Seishin Schools in Okayama.
Sister Kumiko was excited to have an opportunity to visit Cincinnati to learn about the Sisters, the history, and the “workings” of the Ohio Unit. Sister Carol DeFiore, SNDdeN accompanied Sister Kumiko during her visit, which included a day with Archivist Sister Kim Dalgarn, SNDdeN, a visit to Maureen Brogan’s grave, a tour of Cincinnati highlighting places related to Congregational history, meetings with Chris Reid, Team Administrative Assistant, Development Office, and Health Center Staff, observing the Sisters’ Town Hall Meeting in Amiens, celebrating our Congregational Feast, a visit to the Montessori School at The Summit Country Day School, and many conversations with the Sisters.
Q and A with Sister Kumiko:
Tell us about your family and where you grew up.
I grew up in Hokkaido, northern Japan, far from where I now live. My mother died when I was young, and my father is also deceased. I have a sister, brother-in-law, and two nephews living in the north.
How did you happen to convert to Catholicism?
As a teenager, I was interested in religion. I learned about Christianity by talking with Franciscan Sisters at a nearby parish. At 15, I wanted to be baptized. Not knowing anything about Catholicism, my father told me to wait until I was an adult lest I regret my decision and not remain Catholic.
How did you meet the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur?
In high school, when I discovered the book, "Nurturing People,” written by the President of Notre Dame Seishin University, I wanted to study at her school! At the university, my friends came from different mission /convent schools, so I learned about various congregations. Initially, I was not attracted to our Sisters. However, when I was choosing religious life, I talked with our Sisters and felt ready to join… without a single problem! While at the university, I met Peggy Loftus, who chaired the English Literature Department, spoke Japanese well, and had a great sense of humor!
How did you learn English?
I studied English composition and grammar in public junior and senior high school. Now I am delighted to learn English conversation by talking with our Sisters and co-workers.
In what schools have you taught/worked?
After I graduated from the university, I taught in a Catholic kindergarten. After entering the congregation and making First Vows, I taught in a Notre Dame kindergarten and later worked as the director of a parish kindergarten and of a Notre Dame kindergarten.
What are your responsibilities at the Congregational Mission Office?
Anne Stevenson and Angele Lewis are teaching me about congregational communications, technology, First Class, documents, translation, developing online publications, such as the International Directory, aspects of administration, and English conversation.
What do you hope to take back to your Sisters and your Province?
I am eager to share with the Sisters what I am learning about our international congregation and how better to use the internet to connect with our Sisters in Japan. I have learned so much from the Sisters here who have been missionaries in other countries. I am surprised by the many writers, artists, musicians, soloists, and pianists among the Sisters. I am impressed with how provinces in the US are organized to raise money. Because so many Sisters here are cheerful, kind, and gentle, and have deep hearts, I feel close to St. Julie.
Tell us about the Sisters in Japan
There are 36 Sisters in the Japanese Unit; 25 are working; 8 to 10 speak English; several need care.
What do you think about the future of our Congregation?
After meeting the American Sisters, I strongly believe that the treasure of St. Julie will remain. We will continue to pray and act.
What are your impressions of the US?
Overall, America is rich in goods. People have so many opportunities to choose, for example, among food and daily necessities.
Written by Sister Rita Sturwold, SNDdeN