My dear daughter’s commitment for life
crystallized at the Eucharist on the snowy day.
Sister Teruko Ito did this English translation of a Japanese haiku composed by her mother and written in calligraphy by her father onto a Japanese traditional plaque. “They gave it to me at my final commitment as a Maryknoll Sister on February 1, 1981 in Kyoto, Japan.”
The kindness of a Christian woman during the postwar years prompted Teruko’s maternal grandmother’s conversion to Catholicism. She later brought the Gospel message into Teruko’s Buddhist family. Shortly after Teruko’s mother’s baptism, she was baptized at age four. Her father remains a Buddhist.
Years later she visited Kamikochi, a mountain outside of Tokyo known for its majestic beauty. Her father used to climb Kamikochi every year. From the foot of the mountain she called him in Kyoto. He told her that the mountain was once called “a meeting place of the gods.” “My Buddhist father and his Christian daughter had both experienced God. We were able to move beyond religious boundaries.”
Sister Teruko became acquainted with the Maryknoll Sisters who worked in the parish next to hers. After her graduation from Notre Dame High School in Kyoto, she received a scholarship to attend Maryknoll College in the Philippines where she received a B.A. in Mathematics. Since she had been away from her family for four years she returned to Japan because by then she was very much interested in joining the Maryknoll Sisters.
After working for a year, Sister Teruko returned to the Philippines in 1968 to enter the Maryknoll Sisters novitiate for women in Asia. She was assigned to Tanzania in 1970, studied Swahili and taught math in secondary schools in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro. She made her First Vows in Tanzania in 1971. Then came her first trip to the United States and to Maryknoll, NY for a year of reflection. She worked in the Information Services Office and also earned her M.A. in Religious Studies at the Maryknoll Seminary.
In 1978 she was assigned to Japan. A Maryknoll priest welcomed her as he was trying to organize some rehabilitation centers in Japan. He brought the Alcoholics Anonymous program to the country and Sister Teruko did some translation. He created a bilingual meeting between English-speaking and Japanese-speaking AA members and she did the translation back and forth. It was a good way to understand the disease and the recovery process. She helped in MAC, the Maryknoll Alcohol Center on the outskirts of Sanya, Tokyo and was asked to join the project as a full time worker, the only non-alcoholic person on the staff. She made her Final Commitment as a Maryknoll Sister among her family and friends in Kyoto in 1981. Some of the recovering alcoholics participated in the ceremony.
Sister Teruko was appointed Co-Director of the Orientation of candidates to the Maryknoll Sisters in the Orientation house in Newburgh, NY from 1989 to 1993. In 1989 the candidates and their directors represented six countries.
After some studies at Fordham University, Sister Teruko was assigned to Guatemala in 1995. She studied Spanish in Cochabamba, Bolivia and then became part of a diocesan commission of Maryknoll Sisters for Women’s Ministries in the diocese of San Marcos, the poorest of the twenty-three departments of Guatemala. Their ministry is largely the formation of women and men as to the value, dignity, equality, responsibility, participation of women in the family and society. Through workshops and community meetings they analyze the reality and create openings to awareness of discriminatory attitudes and actions, leading then to change. When groups express a desire to engage in projects, they facilitate that: literacy classes, reforestation, canning of fruits and vegetables, candle and soap making, weaving and marketing of woven products, vegetable gardening, etc.
They offer accompaniment to women and children in abusive situations, and provide workshops on alcoholism, on domestic violence and on HIV/AIDS. Sister Teruko offers therapeutic body treatment, such as massage, Reiki, Reflexology at an Alternative Health Center. Sister Teruko often remembers the call she felt to be in Guatemala when she witnessed for the first time the Indigenous people praying in Chichicastenango.
Presently, Sister Teruko is in Japan accompanying her elderly parents while keeping in touch with ministry with the women in San Marcos.