Over the years, he headed a kindergarten, ran two parishes, led an outreach programme for alcoholics and helped young people affected by depression. Arriving in Japan at the age of 25, he was forced to be "reborn into a new world". He baptised many Japanese, three of whom entered the seminary. “It is not the expertise of the missionary that attracts: it is his faith, the faith that can be seen even if one does not hear with words.” One word defines his 53 years in Japan, ‘thanks’. As for the future, it “is in God’s hands".
Sunagawa (AsiaNews) – Brother Narciso Cavazzola, a Franciscan, has been in Japan for 53 years. In all this time, he has been and still is, among other things, the head of a kindergarten, a pastor in two parishes in Sunagawa, counsellor to young people in need and organiser of a programme for people with a drinking problem.
Most of the missionary’s work has been focused on the northern island of Hokkaido, in the north-east. Here he has taught Italian, English and piano. He is an aficionado of Japanese dance. He has baptised many people, three of whom have entered the seminary. "I pray for each of them."
"As the director of a kindergarten, I had the opportunity to meet many families. So many experiences, which I wrote about in five books. One that stayed with me was anonymous alcoholics. We provide the premises, and they meet twice a week, from 7 pm to past 8 pm.”
“Some time ago, there was an Ainu*. Alcohol made him see things that do not exist, frightful things. He would see Rommel the Nazi. He thought streetlights were after him. With such distress, he went to the hospital, where he was advised to come to church meetings."
Thanks to the support of anonymous alcoholics, he managed to free himself from the addiction, which left him with a void and questions about the meaning of life, which he answered through the Bible, given to him by the missionary.
In July 1965, Brother Cavazzola was a young 25 years old. "When I arrived in Japan I was 25 with a Western mindset. The Japanese understand with feelings, the heart. I had to forget everything I had learnt until I was 25 in order to 'reborn' in a new world, “not to mention the issue of the Japanese language. "For a long time, I wondered if I would ever really learn how to talk to these people."
"Children look you into the eyes,” the missionary said. “Once, a child asked me: 'Do you like your face?'. This took me by surprise! So, with a little shrewdness, I told him: 'And do you like your face?' Smiling, he answered, 'Yes, my mother and the good God made this face for me.’ You can learn many things from children."
In 53 years of service, Brother Cavazzola came into contact with some young people in difficulty, including three girls suffering from agoraphobia. "One of them tried to commit suicide 16 times. I followed their case, keeping in touch with their doctor, who told me to encourage them. After three years, they went back to school. All three got married and have children." Even if they are not baptised, the young respect the Church because of the selfless support they received from the missionary.
"It is not the expertise of the missionary that attracts: it is his faith, the faith that can be seen even if one does not hear with words.”
Brother Cavazzola remembers an old missionary who could not speak Japanese. Every week he taught catechism to a Japanese who wanted to be baptised. "At the party for his baptism, the man told him: 'Father, I thank you for the year that you spent with me, but I have to tell you: you spoke as you could, but I never understood anything of what you said. But don’t worry, I saw that you spoke so confidently that what you said must be true.”
“Perhaps I speak Japanese better than that priest, but it is the same thing: faith is passed on if it can be seen. My favourite passage in the Gospel is 'Blessed are the poor in spirit' because they do not pretend to do things with their own strength, but ask God to use them. The power to propagate faith is not in me, but it is God who works through me."
"My coming to Japan was a call from the Lord,” said the Franciscan. “If I had one word to say about these 50 years, it is ‘thanks. Thanks for everything, the past, the experiences, the suffering, all the people who loved me and those who made me suffer. As for the present, I try to do my best. The future is in God’s hands, and let’s leave it to Him."
* Ainu are an ethnic minority that was once persecuted.