12/30/2014, 00.00
JAPAN
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Aid worker becomes a nun after assisting tsunami and Fukushima victims

Sawako Inae conducted a successful professional life first as an official of the United Nations Development Programme, and then in a position of responsibility at Caritas Japan. The encounter with and the assistance provided to victims of the 2011 earthquake changed her life, and pushed her to devote herself to God. Her bishop: "A story of inner conversion. God has wonderful plans for all of us."

Niigata (AsiaNews) - A successful career at the United Nations Development Programme, then a senior post at Caritas Japan. Finally, the profession of her first religious vows to become a nun and dedicate her life to God. This is the story of Sister Sawako Inae, described as "one of the most talented officers in the field", and whom, after spending a year with survivors of the Fukushima disaster, has chosen religious life. Her bishop, Msgr. Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, describes her as "one of the biggest surprises of my life".

Prior to joining Caritas Japan, Ms. Sawako had done an excellent job at UNDP. Thanks to the United Nations programme  she visited developing nations, setting up economic and social policies aimed at improving community life. A fervent Catholic, she left the UN to become part of the Church's charitable organization. For Msgr. Kikuchi  "she was one of the most efficient programme officers I've ever worked with".

On 15 March 2011, a few days after the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, the Bishop of Niigata travelled to the Diocese of Sendai with a select group of Caritas workers. Amongst them Sawako, who was charged with "taking pictures" of the situation and proposing the first rehabilitation and relief programmes for the local population. From that day on, a new journey began for the future nun, who together with Verbite Father Daisuke Naru - who was Secretary of the Caritas Commission - set up the first emergency response center.

During her stay in Sendai, the official was hosted by the Charity Sisters of Ottawa: "One day - Msgr. Kikuchi says - without any warning, she called me and told me she wanted to become a nun. It was one of the biggest surprises of my life. Such a strong lady who could withstand any harsh environment.. God has his own plan for us".

"In Deus Caritas Est - says the prelate - Pope Benedict XVI writes: The Church's deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. Those Catholics who work in relief activities translate these three concepts of the nature of the Church into reality everyday. Doing good in itself is a witness of the gospel".

Now for Sister Sawako, who has professed her first vows, there are two years of religious life before final consecration: "I am sure that this sister had deep experience of conversion in her faith and decided to dedicate herself entirely to God. God really has his own plan for us".

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