SNJM Mission to Japan

We take advantage of the Asian Heritage Month highlighted by Canada, to recall the existence of an SNJM mission in Japan in the 20th century.

The idea of founding a mission in this country dates back to 1926. The presence of Canadian Franciscan Fathers in a region of Japan was not unrelated to the request. Thus, at the Montreal Missionary Exhibition in 1930, Father Gabriel-Marie Duchesnay, OFM, missionary in Japan, made official representations to the General Administration of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM). He hopes that the Congregation will collaborate in opening a school in Kagoshima, located on an island in Japan.

It was finally on November 11, 1931 that Sisters Marie-Edith (Catherine Brossoit), M.-Véronique-du-Crucifix (Gertrude St-Germain), Marie-Esterwin (Ruth Redmond) and M.-Ann-Patricia (Teresa Cunniffe) left the Motherhouse in Outremont to carry out this mission. This month-long journey begins with a train ride to Vancouver. Then, they will take the boat to Yokohama, Japan, before taking the train and another boat to arrive at their destination on December 10.

As in other SNJM missions, the nuns begin their stay by learning the language and the customs of the country. They became involved in the community life of the parish and in the evangelization of the Japanese. In April 1932, the SNJMs opened their first music and English classes at their Yakushi Cho residence.

Class of students – Japan – 193

The SNJM mission in Japan ended in 1940, in the wake of the world conflict. After the war, some SNJM sisters returned to Japan to continue the work of education. Even today, the SNJMs still have an attachment to Japan and maintain some ties.

Singing lesson – Kaseda – 1935

Asian Heritage Month has been celebrated in Canada in May since the 1990s. The goal is to promote awareness of the diversity of cultures and the history of Asian communities in Canada. It is an invitation to “celebrate their contributions to the growth and prosperity of our society,” says the Canadian government.

Photo credit: SNJM Central Archives