Japan – Surprising life story of the country's most senior Salesian Brother

04 July 2018

(ANS – Tokio) – Br Antonio Fumio Akabae is a Don Bosco spiritual Son from a “Kakure Kirishtan” family in Nagasaki – i.e. hidden Christians from the Nagasaki region who survived 275 years of persecution. For God’s Grace, he survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945 and then joined Salesians to live a faithful life for the youngsters.

What makes you happy in Chofu community?

Thanks to God, until this age I’m still able to contribute to our community. Now for the past 15 years in Chofu I’m here looking after the large garden. I’m happy because the community entrusted this task to me. It gives me joy at the age of 89!

What is the secret of your good health until this age?

I didn’t believe to able live until today. When I was 15 years old, almost my whole family perished through the Nagasaki nuclear bomb on August 9, 1945. From a large family of four brothers and 5 sisters only myself and my brother did survive. When I was a young boy, 13 years old, I started to work as a fisherman and during the nuclear bomb accident I was on the fishing ship far away on the open sea. In this way, I survived. After the (Pacific) war, we were poor, but we believed that God lead me and my brother to become Salesians. As posterity of “Kakure Kirishitan”, but until today I had never idea to leave the religious vocation! After the war, when I lost my parents, I could not forget this sorrow, but little by little the contagious Salesian joy changed my life and I have overcome that deep sorrow.

How was your Salesian vocation born?

Before my initial formation as aspirant, novice in Miyazaki, my elder brother was already seminarian. When he visited the family, he invited me: ‘Come and follow me!’ When I visited the Salesian house, I was welcomed and offered a big party. Yes, I liked that spirit! Also in our house after the war there was nothing, and in the Salesian house I got a lot! I followed my brother! But my brother told me: ‘You smoke too much, you can’t follow!’ - But I resisted. That year was open the Salesian Hyuga School in Miyazaki. And I was given the chance to study or to join the Congregation: ‘If you just like to read and write you can join as Salesian Brother. If you like to study more, you need to enroll in the school’. I gave myself fully to Don Bosco and started my service as cook and gardener. In this way started my vocation in Miyazaki Salesian community. After 4 months of Salesian experience, I was home sick and I reflected: ‘No superiors send me out’ and I felt very bad, and start to pray the Rosary every day. I realized: ‘Maybe If I return home, I can’t go to heaven! Then I asked my elder brother for advice. And he told me ‘Come back’ and I returned. Since that time, with the help of God and trust in Mary, I can live faithfully my vocation until now for the past 69 years! [First profession in 1949].

What is the Salesian house memory you treasure most?

I would not chose any house now. I’m always happy with the place God, through the superiors, sends me. Until now, after first profession, I was sent to Chofu for 3 years, when this house was started. Then I spent 39 years in Tokyo – Kodaira orphanage and then 11 years in Nakatsu Boys home. In 2003 Fr. Orlando Puppo sent me here to Chofu and until now I’m member of this community. Every day I’m waiting for the call from heaven. I’m prepared and ready to go to meet Don Bosco in heaven any time!

Any advice to the young Salesians?

I don’t’ have any special advice, since we are living in a family. Just one thing – ‘don’t gossip, please’! This is the most important for building a good community and family spirit.

Who is your favorite Salesian saint?

Saint Antonio is my Patron, but he is not a Salesian – (he smiles)- and then Fr. Vincent Cimatti! Since the Miyazaki Aspirantate (minor seminary) times I treasure his memory. I can’t forget his early morning prayer in the chapel when he took off his shoes in order not to wake up other Salesians in the convent before the waking time. Especially Fr Cimatti was every time very joyful and very attentive to our families. He often asked me about the health of my family members.

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