On September 3, 2003, Sr. Josephine Tan Dugay, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (SFIC) from the Philippines, came to Japan as a Pastoral Worker. She was assigned to the Kyoto Diocese, through the sponsorship of the Bishop of Kyoto.
I first met her at their Sisters' House located next to the Saiin Catholic Church soon after she arrived in Kyoto. My initial impression was that she had an approachable personality. We started talking about the Filipino Community in Kyoto, briefly discussing some common problems and the means of support given to them. From then on, we have been tackling such matters until now.
Sr. Josephine or Sr. Josie, as she is fondly called, was born and grew up in Roxas, Isabela. She comes from a family of ten siblings, whose parents are of Chinese descent. Her experiences from their family business and college training (she has a degree in Commerce), plus a lot of "optimism" has helped her in her several asssignments not only in the Philippines but elsewhere.
On a trip from Japan to Kenya, Africa for the "World Social Forum 2007," when asked by an airport immgration officer checking her documents what her profession was, she answered "nun." Having heard the word "none," the officer was confused. However, after seeing Sr. Josie dressed in the Franciscan habit of white and gray, all was understood.
How the Franciscan Sisters started their "reaching out" social services network in Japan is a never ending love story. Love in the sense that it is to sacrifice one's time, energy, effort, and comforts of life in exchange for the joy and needs of others. Giving "hope" to those who most need them is their priority!
Almost three decades ago a Franciscan priest from the Netherlands based in Kyoto, Fr. Gerald Salemink, Sr. Judith Kamada and her co-sisters from the Notre Dame School Sisters and a few lay people, gathered to discuss ways of starting a community-based group to assist the foreign residents of Kyoto, particularly to those who were already married to Japanese spouses and other Filipinos living in the Kyoto Prefecture. Later, a couple of Franciscan Sisters (SFIC) from St. Joseph's College in Quezon City, where Sr. Josie belongs, were invited by the Franciscan priests to join the members of church volunteers in order to meet the growing needs of Filipino migrants, and other members of International groups in the Kyoto Diocese.
It was also at this time that the Kyoto Pag -Asa Filipino Community (KPFC) was organized. This church-based community became bigger and this year KPFC will be celebrating its 25th year anniversary.
Of the Franciscan Sisters who first came, there are now eight of them: working, assisting, and expanding their social services not only in the Kyoto Prefecture but other far away places as well. Srs. Mary Lou Razon, Lorenza Alfonso, Cherryline Delgado are assigned to Niiigata. Srs. Nora Jaurigue, Mila Lumasac in Mie Ken, Sr. Fredelina Rivera in Nara, Sr. Altagracia Miguel in Shiga, and Sr. Josephine Dugay in Kyoto.
After studying Japanese language in Kyoto, Sr. Josie was assigned to Nara for two years and came back to Kyoto. She has been with the Kyoto Prefecture Filipino communities for almost five years now also providing spiritual needs for those who cannot regularly come to the church for the Sunday masses. In our present world, where many prefer to be thinkers, Sr. Josie is a "doer." She deeply feels that it is her responsibility to help in whatever way she can for the betterment of the community and its members. If someone would call for help, she would gladly volunteer. Her presence is a big force, when things need to be finished on time. With her vigorous support, cooperation, encouragement, many of KPFC's activities and programs - like the yearly UTAWIT singing contest for charity, Christmas celebrations, leadership trainings/seminars, and other church related gatherings, are successfully performed.
With her almost seven year-stay in Japan, Sr. Josie thinks that most of the problems of Filipinos living here are related to differences in culture, family values, traditions, and lack of communications. These gaps can only be bridged if concerned parties discuss such issues with an open mind or heart, resolve such matters. Some challenges are reaching out to the Japanese spouses, children, and even in-laws living with them. Domestic violence problems sometimes involve such parents.
Sr. Josie, who is also with the Social Services Committee of KPFC and the other communities of the Kyoto Prefecture, has ample experience in counselling even to the point of looking for temporary shelters for Filipino wives/children running away from problematic spouses, to visiting detention centers and networking with related NGOs providing legal advice, medical services, government services/info just to name some.
She has found meaning in her choice of vocation as a Franciscan Sister ministering to the needs of fellow Filipinos here in Japan. And she believes there still more we can do if only we find happiness in helping others.
Thank you, Sr. Josie for showing us that "Heaven" exists even during the worst of times. We are glad that our roads have crossed!
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." Ecclesiastes 1-8