Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

Sister M. DeDeo Sueko Usuzaka

I, Sister DeDeo Sueko Usuzaka, was born on March 1940 in Shimane prefecture, the eighth on nine children. There are 4 older brothers, 3 older sisters and 1 younger sister.

The teacher asked me if I would like to study nursing while working. I had never imagined myself becoming a nurse until then, but I decided to go that way. When I graduated from nursing school, I had an interview and ended up working at Matsue JRC Hospital. I received a cap with the Red Cross on my head and it was like a dream come true to start my nursing career.

A few years later, while working, I started learning flower arrangement, cooking, Western-style dressmaking, tea ceremony, etc. as training for homemaking. Also, my mother spun thread from silkworms and wove kimonos, so when I asked to introduce me to someone who could teach me Japanese dressmaking, a senior nurse at the JRC immediately helped me. She was a Catholic. The church was located in the middle of our staff dormitory (JRCA) where we lived and the hospital 500 meters away. The people gathered at the church were most cheerful, open, and friendly people I had ever met. I was recommended to learn the Catechism, and a year later, six of us were baptized together on Easter. I was baptized without telling my family.

The joy of encountering God by learning Japanese dressmaking changed me greatly.

Participating in church more and more I met people who had joined religious life and young people of the sodality. I developed a longing for the religious. I was advised to further my nursing studies to serve better, I decided to apply for and start studying at a national nursing school. Before graduation, I went for an interview at Himeji, St. Mary's Hospital through a priest's introduction and was allowed to work there.

I could not go quietly because I was leaving my hometown far away to go to Himeji. My parents were Buddhists, so I told them I was going to improve myself for a year. I told my parents a painful lie. My sisters were vaguely aware of it but kept quiet so as not to grieve our elderly parents.

I was very happy to receive a loving letter of Sr. Josepha Yamashita, the nursing director at that time and I strongly felt God’s call. I worked as a nurse under Sr. Benedicta Nakaie and learned a lot.

I joined in Marh 1970 and the day after becoming novice I took the bullet train to Tokyo convent. Convent superior Sister Marysia from Poland, Sister Cecilia Hisamastu, Sister Teresita Miyake, Sister Christella Watanabe and Sister Beatrice Maeda welcomed me. The convent’s grounds were endless wide and covered in deep grass all around, with only the cave of Lourdes. I was grateful for God’s providence, knowing that sewing and mending kimonos was prepared to become a way to mend and heal the wounds in the heart of many people.

One day, our superior asked me if I would like to study to be a midwife. I said yes and prepared for the exam while making vows. I professed my first vows on March 17, 1974. I was deeply grateful for divine plan and guidance for my acceptance. After few days I entered Seibo Midwife Academy in Tokyo. The school was a boarding system I lived in a bunk bed with Sister Christina Nagata. We had a good time, sometimes returning to the Tokyo convent to attend seminars. After graduating and qualifying, I worked in the maternity ward of St. Mary’s Hospital, where I began my life as a midwife with Sister Bernardine Shirota. As a Catholic, my service here was fraught with anguish and conflict over the dignity of fetal life and ethical issues.

After serving for 10 years, I turned to pastoral care. I felt this service to be the best apostolate for me. Visit the sicked bed empty-handed and listen. Hearing my whole being.... From there, an idea came to me. The nightly broadcast began with the words, "Everyone in the hospital, let us pray together before going to bed.” The reason we have been able to do this for so long is because our patients have been waiting for this time.

Two sisters were already in Korea preparing for missions. I was told that a third person would be needed as construction of a nursing home was about to begin, so I was asked to go on a mission to Korea. October 1996 I was 56 years old. If God is with me, and two of our sisters were going our best. I said yes and went to Seoul to begin study of Hangul. Our nursing home, the house of Francis had only been open for eight years, it was told the facility evaluation was the best facility in Korea. Since its opening, it was attracted the high quality and gradually more and more people who desire to learn nursing care education visited. At the request of the facility director, I started to teach nursing care education for the application. And I was able to get a driver's license at the age of 60, so I drove 2 hours one way to the Franciscan institution for leprosy and did nursing care education every month for half a year. Everything was supported by the warm love of the Korean people. Until March 2008, I learned a lot for 12 years.

After returning from Korea, I had a year of sabbatical, and I worked at the Catholic Nibuno Villa. Then in April 2012, I transferred to the Tokyo convent to work at the Francisco Villa. I was impressed by the quiet appearance of the villa on the vast grounds that were widely covered with grass. The most memorable thing in the 12 years I spent here was spending with the residents. Above all, I was able to participate in the end-of-life care of those who were called to heaven from here.

It was a great blessing for me to be able to say goodbye one by one quietly, taking time, and being able to say goodbye in a presence that beyond words. The Lord was with me, it was all done. Thanks to God.