Sister Hiro Kageyama, who, in 1957 became the first Japanese woman to be professed as a Sister of the Good Samaritan, has been honoured by her home country with an award recognising her many years of overseas service for people in need, especially in the Philippines.
Hiro travelled to Tokyo earlier this month with Sister Anne Dixon, with whom she lives and ministers in the Philippines, to accept the award from the Foundation for Encouragement of Social Contribution (FESCO).
“It was very unexpected,” she said. “And my main feelings about it were just inexpressible, deep gratitude to God, my parents, my Congregation and communities, and innumerable supporters, for my long life both in Japan and outside Japan, especially Australia and the Philippines, for their kind loving assistance.
“I was also very happy because the nature of this award is for social contribution, which means helping others, and as Sisters of the Good Samaritan, that is what we try to do.
“I think God allows us to feel happy when we help others, as a little taste of heaven.”
Hiro joined the Sisters of the Good Samaritan in 1955 after meeting the late Sister Mary Catherine Teresa Mercovich, who was ministering in Nagasaki.
“I had been with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart for all my school education, but somehow God wanted differently,” she said.
She spent many years working as both a teacher and principal at the Seiwa School, in Sasebo City, Nagasaki Ken, which was run by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, before spending some time at the mother house in Nara working in formation. After another period at Seiwa, she was appointed provincial for the Japan Province, a position she held for 10 years.
When she retired as provincial in 1994, Hiro ministered in the Philippines from 1994 to 2001 and again from 2012 to the present.
Over those years Hiro has worked with the Good Samaritan community and their partners in ministry in a variety of projects, including providing assistance with nutrition programs for children and religious education programs.
Hiro is currently involved in the ongoing development of the Good Samaritan Kinder School and the Good Samaritan Outreach Centre in Bacolod. She also supports an educational scholarship program, serves on the Diocesan Commission of Family and Life, provides pre-marriage education for Japanese and Filipino couples, and teaches Japanese to students.
Hiro said she loves her work with the people of Bacolod on Negros Island in the Philippines.
“The work we do is not just to help people out, but also to build up self-reliance and sustainability,” she said.
“If we help them to learn ways of living so that they can sustain themselves, especially the mothers, then we are helping to build up the community for the long-term.”
Hiro said she was thrilled to be at the award presentation in Tokyo, which was attended by Her Imperial Highness, Princess Yoko, and more than 400 other people. Hiro received her award from Japan’s First Lady, Ms Akie Abe, who is Chairperson of the Foundation for Encouragement of Social Contribution. She was also “extra happy” to be treated to a celebration by her many friends at the Seiwa School, before the award ceremony.
“I was deeply impressed and moved by the other awardees’ dedicated, compassionate action and activities for the needy. They really deepened my insight into social service,” she said.
“And also, I think my father would be very happy in heaven, because he always told me to be helpful for society, to study hard and work hard for society. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart also emphasised this at school, and then of course, I entered the Sisters of the Good Samaritan who are all about the neighbour, helping other people and having compassion for people.
“So when I look at my life, I see that God arranged this. Somehow, God prepared one road from my childhood and I have been walking a road of social contribution, whether I was aware of it or not.
“Other people are so important. We are all sisters and brothers.”