Accompanying Migrants


By Abby Avelino

I thought I‘d write today about what hap-pened and whom I met throughout the day. I am grateful for all those people. I started my usual third Sunday schedule very early. We had a Baptism ceremony for two infants; one boy with an Afri-can father and Japanese mother. The African father was in immigration detention and was given a “karihoumen” (temporary re-lease) for a year. Although he is married to a Japanese woman he’s not sure whether their relationship will work out. He is in the process of getting a “spouse” visa but it takes time to get his papers processed.

Drawing and letter of Eliana (her photo below with Abby Avelino)
Drawing and letter of Eliana (her photo below with Abby Avelino)

drawing-2(The motivation for a number of interracial marriages is to obtain legal im-migration status). I pray that he gets his visa soon and he could live together peacefully with his wife and his son, D.

The other one-year old baby girl, R‘s parents are both Filipino. They are so happy that finally she got baptized. They don’t have much time to be together and they work hard in order to make a living for their two children. They seem a happy family.

After the Baptism ceremony, a Japanese woman came. Her mother died the week before. She shared that her mother’s funeral went well and appreciated all prayers and support re-ceived. Both of her parents suffered dementia; she is now caring for her elderly father. I do pray for her and all caregivers.

Few minutes after, another Filipino family came. Their daughter, Eliana is one of the altar servers and she‗s in my ‗first communion‘ preparation class. This family migrated to Japan because of her father’s job. They’re one of the few families that luckily settled here in Japan and with a stable job. We enjoy one another in class.

While I was talking with them, a girl from Marshall Islands came. She wants to be an altar server. She and her mother came as part of a diplomatic family. Her grandfather is the Ambassador to Japan from the Mar-shalls. I have known this family for quite some time. Mr. Kijiner was taught by Maryknoll Sisters in Marshalls when he was a young boy. I thought what a small world…now their grandchildren are in my catechism class.

During 12 noon mass, I met Maria, a Filipina with her two teenage sons. Their father was Japanese and died a few years ago. Maria is very worried about their future here in Japan. Her problem is very common for migrant mothers…dealing with her bi-cultural sons and Japanese in-laws. After mass, two Filipina came for a consultation. One is a single-mother and has difficulty dealing with her teenage daughter…a typical teenager who would like to be independent. M is concerned about her daughter‗s future and their relationship as a family.

These are a few of many stories that I hear every day and these are some difficult situations for every person. I work at St. Ignatius Church (Tokyo) doing pastoral ministry primarily with migrants/ immigrants from Philippines, Africa, Americas, Europe, Myanmar, and many more. I hear many stories….domestic violence prob-lems, visa problems, financial problems, spiritual hunger, homelessness, parenting problems, difficulty of caregiv-ing for the elderly, etc…It is a challenging ministry but I love accompanying the parishioners even just to listen to their stories and pay attention to their needs. We share our joys and hopes as we journey together as sisters and brothers in Christ.