Saturday 31 October 2015

The ExPat on the Missionary

There's an Irish chap who wants money to make a film about his cousin, the last Irish missionary nun to leave Japan. There's an article about his project and her life here.

While reading this interview, I noticed that there was not a single mention of the religious reason why Sister Paschal became a missionary sister or the real focus of her life which was, I think I may assume, Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The 33 year old director talks instead of  Church propaganda, lack of options for women in Irish society of the 1930s, Ireland wanting to distinguish itself against England, Catholicism being "somewhat oppressive", and young men and women being "lured" into missionary work.

What really impresses him is that Sister Paschal spent her life among people of great influence and importance in Japan:

I knew she had taught in high circles in Japan for decades, that amongst her past pupils and her private students were members of the Mitsubishi and Suzuki families…very much high-fliers in Japan. I was impressed by this and by stories of one of my uncle’s visits to Japan, where he was wined and dined by her “inner circle.” It seemed like something out of a fairytale, this relative who in another era had left home forever only to be integrated into a completely different society at a very high level, becoming both a part of that society—and in Japan that is not very common—while also maintaining her role as an outsider and a missionary with a message to spread.
And that message was...? The sad thing about the interview is that the youngish Irish chap seems to be embarrassed by his elderly cousin's Catholicism and downplays it as much as possible while talking to a Catholic interviewer for an orthodox Catholic website. He says to actual believing Catholics all the PC things about how awful Catholic Ireland was in the hope we will give him money for his project.

If I thought the project were about the secret of Sister Paschal's happiness, including the mind-blowing idea that her happiness somehow came about in part from the "rules" her young cousin rejects, then I think the project would be worthy of funding by faithful Catholics. But this project sounds like an G-rated Irish version of  Eat, Pray, Love : Irish girl flees narrow Ireland, tempted by promise of adventure, eats sushi, practises "spirituality", is adored by "inner circle" of  Japanese "hi-fliers." Was that what Sister Paschal's life was really about?

Her young cousin thinks her happiness came from her attention to people, "her investment in human relationships". He speaks vaguely of her "inner world", but it seems like it would kill him to say, "She really loved +Jesus Christ." He assures the Catholic World Report, of all media,  he assures Dom Alcuin Reid, of all people, that the Biblical quotes his cousin put on the blackboard for the instruction of her Japanese pupils were "never dogmatic, always based on love and charity."

Of course, from a historical point of view it does sound like a great film. I would suggest that instead of trying to get Catholics to stump up the money, the director try the Irish government, or Irish feminists, or anyone who would be eager to promote a story about a massive Irish contribution to the world directed by a man who harps on how awful the Church in Ireland was and does his best not to utter the the Holy Name of Jesus.

A take-home point: When writing, fundraising or giving an interview, always remember your audience. 


  1. He has projected his values onto the past and present. He is stunned and perplexed that, even though she spent 75 years of her life in Japan, sacrifcing much, she is still a fulfilled woman who completed her vocation. Does he really believe that she lived in Japan for three quarters of a century because she wanted a "career" instead of a family, and that she was "lured" into missionary work? She was motivated by a profoundness which the post-modern and secular mind refuses to comprehend, so we are told that she must have been tricked into her decision to leave Ireland. His documentary could have been much more inspiring and truthful if he had put aside his bias and prejudice.


  2. Well, it's not done yet, so there's hope. But so far, it's not looking good.


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