Born into a Buddhist family, she converted when she was 12. Drawn to the monastic life and the adoration of the Eucharist, she became a nun. During her 40 years in India she taught children with intellectual disabilities, “seeing Christ” in them.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Sr. Asunta Nakade is a Japanese nun; belonging to the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She has lived in India, at Dilkhush Convent Juhu, for the past 40 years. She is leaving for Japan, her home country, forever, on the 21st of October 2016. We are grateful to her, for her contribution to our country, India, especially to the Archdiocese of Mumbai, and in particular, to the overall development of children with special needs. Let us look back at her journey of faith, with Jesus Christ, as her GURU.
She was born in Tokyo in 1937, to a Buddhist family, consisting of her parents and her brother. Her original name was Keiko. She had to change school often, as her father, working for the Trading Company, would be transferred, to any of its many branches in Japan as well as abroad. It was in 1949, while she was in Kobe, in the final year of Primary school, that a mysterious encounter with the Catholic Church, (in a way, an encounter with God, Himself) took place. One evening, Keiko saw her neighbors going to church, and she followed them. It was a Catholic church, and at the chapel by the side, the right arm of St. Francis Xavier, (the holy relic) was placed. She saw a long queue of people going to the altar, one by one, to venerate the Holy Relic. Although she did not know anything about Catholicism, (as it was for the first time that she had entered a Catholic church) she would never forget the experience that she had on that Day! Keiko was overwhelmed by holiness! Later she believed that surely through St. Francis Xavier, she received the gift of faith, in the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Keiko was 13 years, her father shifted her to another school, run by Franciscan sisters. It was a great surprise for her. She was once again overwhelmed by the holiness of the sisters. Deep down in her heart; she experienced heavenly joy and happiness. She started attending Sunday school to learn more about the Catholic faith. One of the sisters taught her Catechism, and thus, began her faith formation. The experience of God’s presence in her heart was so strong, that she wanted to give herself completely to God, by joining a convent. She expressed her desire to her parents, but they could not comprehend it, as she was not yet baptized. She continued her faith formation, and she was baptized at the school chapel, on 15th August, 1950 with 3 of her class mates. She took the name Asunta. Even though her family was Buddhist, her father didn’t object to her becoming Catholic. He told her that it would be good to have a personal religion. Her mother was baptized 2 years later, and then her brother too. Her father wanted to keep Buddhism as a family religion and so he did not get baptized.
At the age of 19, Asunta felt deep down in her heart, the call of God, but did not know where God was calling her. As per the suggestion of one Jesuit priest, she visited the Convent of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, at Yokosuka. She was welcomed by a Japanese sister, who was the Novice Mistress, at that time. She was so taken up by the warmth and hospitality of the sisters that she visited the convent several times later. Through these visits, she was drawn to the Blessed Sacrament. The sisters had Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every day and she was falling in love with Jesus Christ. She wanted to dedicate her life totally for Him.
When she finished her graduation, she expressed her desire to join the convent; her mother could not digest the idea, and endured a lot of pain in losing her only daughter. But, her Buddhist father understood the meaning of following Jesus and without any objection, he advised her to be ever faithful, without looking back again.
Asunta joined the Novitiate on the 13th November 1962; there were 20 novices with her. She made her Vows on the 11th of February 1965, and after the wonderful experience of the Third Probation, she took her Final Commitment on 15th August 1972.
She came to India on 6th July 1976, in place of another sister who was supposed to go to India, but whose visa was rejected. Before coming to India, she did a Montessori course in Dublin, as a preparation to teach in a special school.
In India, Sr. Asunta joined the small community of the Handmaids at Dilkhush Convent, Juhu. At that time 5 nuns from abroad, were running the school for intellectually challenged children. For the first 3 months, it was hard for her to adjust to a new place. Sr. Asunta was appointed as the class teacher of the Junior Class. She said: ”It is not easy to deal with these children, but our charism, which is to adore the Eucharistic Lord, is the source of my strength and joy. The mystical experience, of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, was similar to seeing Christ in our children. When God loves these children they become lovable. The special children were a special gift that the Lord gave me, in India. I had a wonderful time teaching and learning from them, a lot of experiences of love, sensitivity and care from them!” Until 2014 Sr. Asunta lectured at the Dilkhush Teachers Training Centre, on the Montessori Method of teaching.
Sr. Asunta is a pastoral woman. She has always been there for any activities of St. Joseph’s Parish Juhu. She likes to visit the families of the parish, and even now, at the age of 79, she distributes communion to the sick and the homebound!
She has a big heart for the poor. She goes out of her way to help them, whether it is for the education of poor children or for the medical needs of HIV patients. She is quite well known among the poor people right from Madh Island to Dadar! She has stayed at the hospital, when a poor woman from the street was admitted. Any poor person who comes to Dilkhush will not go away, without receiving a cold drink and snacks from Sr. Asunta. She would be very unhappy if they are not served food. She has helped many broken families; rehabilitated them in different places and most of them are doing well. On her birthday and special occasions, we have had many of them come with their families, to wish her personally, and to express their gratitude. When she celebrated her Golden Jubilee, in the year 2010, she preferred to have a special celebration only with the poor people. So we invited all the poor people whom she was in contact with and had a get together. It was a great joy to see them organizing the whole felicitation and cultural programme for Sr. Asunta. This concluded with a meal with them.
Sr. Asunta says, “India is a land of contemplation. The Spirit works in silence, and takes us to the experience of God’s presence and His unconditional love. The following three ”Cs”are my guiding stars; Contemplation, Communion and Compassion”.
We are grateful to you dear Sr. Asunta for all that you have been to us! We will surely miss your presence and your smiling face. But we are very much united with you in Spirit, because we will never forget your love, sacrifices and enthusiasm for the mission and your great love for India!
SAYANORA Sr. Asunta!!!