Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

Sister Johanna Hisako Kataoka

I, Sr. Johanna Hisako Kataoka, was born and brought up in Nagasaki. My family and ancestors have been Catholic in Nagasaki for 250 years. I am the 10th generation.

There were four persecutions between 1790 and 1867, and at the time of the fourth persecution, my grandparents and all the people in the village were forced to leave. For six years, they suffered in other areas (clans), endured hunger, cold, torture, and returned home without apostasy.

However, the village where they lived was desolate. The people of other religions confiscated all the household goods and the land. Their faith was strong and endured many hardships. They built the Cathedral with small donation every month in 30 years and known as the best in the East. This Cathedral (Urakami Church) collapsed in an instant by the atomic bomb in 1945. The atomic bomb killed between 7,000 and 8,000 Christian and two priests.

There are twelve children in my family, seven boys and five girls.  I am eighth from the top. I wanted to be a Sister from kindergarten at the age of five or six.  There was no special invitation but I always heard whispers from God in my heart. 

My aunt was a Sister of St. Paul of Chartres. In addition, my three elder sisters belonged Sister of St. Paul of Chartres. I naturally wanted to be a Sister. My aunt even got permission for me from the provincial superior of Sister of St. Paul of Chartres, but she was disappointed when she heard that I want to join another congregation.

My older brother is a Franciscan priest and all five sisters, including me, became sisters. My three sisters belonged Sister of St. Paul of Chartres, I joined our congregation, and my younger sister was in the congregation of the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

My vocation

When I was in elementary school, junior high school and high school, I walked 50 minutes from home. After the world war, many religious orders were active in Nagasaki. Sisters were waiting on their way home from school, and they were invited to join their own congregation. Strangely, I remember that my heart was not moved at that time.

Every morning I would go for Mass with the Sisters at the Cathedral and walk down the street in front of St. Francis Hospital. I had a deep connection with our Sisters of the community and enjoyed spending time with them at children's Christmas parties.

When I was in junior high school, I was introduced to Sister Clementia and Sister Policarpa, the first missionary sisters in Japan, by Brother Joseph, a Franciscan. Whenever Sr. Clementia, the regional superior, came to Nagasaki from Himeji, she talked to me personally after the Mass. We spoke with each other and they left no deep impression on me.  Then unexpectedly I decided to join and became a member on February 11, 1956.

The ccommunity consisted of four pre-novices and eight novices. We, twelve women were between 1 to 15 years of age difference. Every day we were laughing, weeping, cleaning, praying (also in English), studying (Gregorian chants, English...) It was silence (at that time, the novice was forbidden to talk to the sisters), and at lunchtime

We cared the pigs that were kept in the convent (the pigs would fall asleep when you rubbed their backs with a rough broom). We scooped fish with small handkerchiefs to catch small fish in the big river near the convent, and played tag with our aprons to get rid of small birds that had wandered into the corridor of the convent.

After Second Vatican Council, the liturgy changed completely, and the Gregorian chant that we had studied during the novitiate was no longer sung, Latin was replaced by Japanese, and the religious dress had undergone many changes.   

I cannot describe enough the memories of missionary sisters in words. I have no sufficient words to thank the generous hearts of the missionary sisters of the American Province who have brought up and guided the sisters of the Japan Province until today.  I have been 60 years a Hospital Sisters of St. Francis.

My favorite verses are "Follow me" and “Thy Will be done." I will continue to keep these verses in my heart.