Fr. Toru Albertus Nishimoto, CSsR: Father of the Night

nishimoto

Most of the Redemptorists buried in the ossuary of the shrine are either Australians, New Zealanders or Filipinos. The only exception is a lone Japanese–Fr. Toru Albertus Nishimoto, CSsR.

A native of Kyoto, Japan, Fr. Toru Albertus Nishimoto, was the first Japanese Redemptorist priest. He lived in the Philippines since 1975 as an urban missionary, a benefactor of Filipino students, chaplain of Japanese nationals in the country, and a relentless fund raiser for pastoral and civic projects benefiting countless Filipinos.

He came to Manila in 1974 to further his studies in Missiology at the East Asian Pastoral Institute at the Ateneo de Manila upon the recommendation of his former professor at the Gregorian University in Rome.  During his studies at the EAPI, he befriended a group of Japanese nationals and started to conduct regular meetings with them.  After his course at the Ateneo, he paid a visit to then Archbishop Jaime Sin and presented his report about this group. Archbishop Sin asked Fr. Nishimoto to stay in the Philippines and continue to take care of the Japanese nationals in the country.  Manila was a major tourist attraction in those days and Archbishop Sin was aware of the influx of Japanese tourists.  His sabbatical in the Philippines turned into a permanent ministry here that includes evangelizing Japanese nationals through encounters with Filipino communities. Thus, started Father Nishimoto’s missionary work in our country.

In 1975, he put up a Pre-evangelization Program for Japanese nationals that aimed to teach them the word of God, since most of them were non-Christians. Through this office (PEP for short), he gives mental and spiritual care and guidance to the Japanese in the Philippines regardless of their religion.

Beginning with teaching Sunday catechism to Japanese families in Manila between his classes at the Jesuit Ateneo de Manila, Father Nishimoto went on to visiting jails, hospitals and nightclubs frequented by Japanese tourists.

“When I reported to (Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila) at the end of my sabbatical leave, he welcomed me to (his) house saying, ´Father of the night, welcome to the house of Sin,´” he told UCA News. [1]

He said the cardinal knew of his work at nightclubs, asked him to stay and assured him that as long as he was cardinal of Manila, the Japanese priest could continue his apostolate in the archdiocese.

According to Father Nishimoto, the Pre-Evangelization Program office offers Japanese nationals “a Christian experience in a Christian country.”

Aside from caring for troubled Japanese in the country, the priest counsels couples before marriage and conducts a youth exposure program for Japanese students.

Figures at his office indicate that intermarriage between Japanese men and Filipino women increased from 650 couples in 1987 to 6,840 by 1997.

Father Nishimoto said that he visits such couples who settle in Japan twice a year as a way to protect the faith of the Filipino spouse.

“Most Japanese have no sense of God,” he said, adding that he has organized groups in Japan similar to the Philippine-based Couples for Christ to monitor the marriages and build a community of married couples.

In 1982, while acting as a tourist guide to some Japanese students visiting our country, five students asked Fr. Nishimoto why there were so many children in the streets when they should be in school. Fr. Nishimoto replied, “They have no money to go to school.” This awakened the civic consciousness of his Japanese tourists and upon their return to Japan they sent him Y150,000 to fund the schooling of five deserving but poor children in the Philippines. The good priest gave the money to Sister Ueda, who has been helping poor Filipino students in their studies with her own personal funds.

In Japan, meanwhile, Sr. Ueda’s work was broadcast by the NHK, a Japanese radio and TV station, and this triggered a deluge of calls from good Samaritans offering financial assistance to the poor Filipino students. Since Sr. Ueda could not cope with all these, she asked Fr. Nishimoto’s help to handle the funds, and he in turn asked help from Professor Yabuki.  Thus started “Salamat Po Kai,” an organization that helps indigent Filipino children go to school.

Salamat Po Kai started funding 40 scholars during school year 1982-1983 and that number has grown to 9,264 after all these years. The total funds that Fr. Nishimoto’s organization has collected from 1982 to 2007 have reached a staggering P302,051,483.

Father Nishimoto’s apostolate has a twofold mission: Directly, his scholarships help less fortunate Filipino children in their education. Indirectly, his main aim is to evangelize and reawaken a “sense of God” among his Japanese benefactors.  His scholars are encouraged to write often to their benefactors, coursing their letters through the PEP office. Most of the benefactors come to know about the Christian faith through their scholars. In all these 34 years of missionary work in the Philippines, Fr. Nishimoto’s concern has always been the Japanese soul. He has tried to reawaken Japanese people to the presence of God through the Filipino people. He believes that the Filipino is the “Star of the East” sent to guide the Japanese to become closer to Jesus.

An excellent communicator, Fr. Nishi founded the Japanese section of Radio Veritas in 1976. He was so successful in his daily broadcasts that, within a particular period, out of the 21,670 letters received by Radio Veritas, 20,012 were about Fr. Nishi’s program. Unfortunately, the program had to be terminated in 1992, but this did not stop Fr. Nishi from using the mass media for his pastoral activities.

He was also a prolific writer on: his works as a priest in the Philippines, the Japanese-Filipino relations, and especially his messages to the Japanese people. He has written five books about his work in Manila, most notably Father By Night, a compilation of his radio program in Radio Veritas Asia.  A sixth book was written in 1994, New Life in Japan, a guidebook for Filipino wives married to Japanese husbands who are living in Japan.[2]

In 1997 he hosted 40 groups of 7-40 participants each who interacted with farmers, fisherfolk and other sectors on different islands of the archipelago.

Fr. Nishi was an achiever. But what will immortalize him in our hearts was the fact that he came as a foreigner but ended up as a Filipino who loved the Philippines better than most of us do. And he desired to be one like us, not by a naturalization decree from the Office of Immigration, but by the more rewarding way of humble and loving service.[3]

In the last years of his ministry Fr. Nishimoto had to have blood transfusions from Filipino friends during his long bout with kidney disease and leukemia. As Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa, OP (former Rector Magnificus, University of Santo Tomas) relates it: “‘Father Nishi’ considered his sickness as God’s way of turning him into a full-blooded Filipino. He once told his niece, Mako, after several dialysis sessions: “Not a single drop of Japanese blood flows in my veins now. It is the blood of my Filipino donors that keeps me alive.”

He died in 2010 at the age of 76 in his beloved Manila (where he lived for 37 years) and was buried in the Redemptorist ossuary in Baclaran.

Joey Echano, CSsR

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

 


 

[1] https://www.ucanews.com/story-archive/?post_name=/1999/01/12/japanese-priest-ministers-in-the-philippines&post_id=12834

[2] SAVOIR FAIRE By Mayenne Carmona  | Updated June 14, 2008, “Father by night,” http://www.philstar.com/modern-living/67583/father-night

[3] FR. ROLANDO V. DE LA ROSA, O.P., God bless you Fr. Nishi, August 28, 2010, https://www.opednews.com/Diary/Father-Nishi-and-the-Post-by-Kevin-Anthony-Stod-100912-559.html?f=Father-Nishi-and-the-Post-by-Kevin-Anthony-Stod-100912-559.html

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