Reports from Japan: Benedictines and Trappistines.

From: Tony Gorman
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2011 6:28 PM
Subject: Earthquake

Dear family member, confrere, friend:

Sorry to be short and impersonal with my message today.

[Trinity Benedictine Monastery in] Fujimi is fine, I believe, but here in Tochigi Prefecture we did get hit, but not nearly as bad as other places. It is the biggest one the Trappistines [Nasu, Japan] can remember.

No personal injuries here.

All the buildings are standing.

Inside there was a fair amount of shake-up and the tremors continued intermittently from yesterday, 2:40 PM, and still receiving this morning including one near the beginning of Mass.

Inside the buildings there was some damage.  Things did fall off shelves or walls in places, and at least one outdoor light fixture shook enough to fall and break.   There are cracks in the road. When looking at certain corners of buildings, the wall paper is torn so it is hard to guess about the interior damage. As I write this now the earth shook again (and twice more before finishing this below).  We were without electricity from 2:40 PM until a generator started supplying about 8:20 AM. We continue to be without heat and water, though the Sisters have a supply of the latter on hand.  I just learned of one death elsewhere in our prefecture caused by a fallen factory wall.  May he rest in peace.

Statues fell over and broke, including the beautiful heavy one of Mary with Jesus in the chapel.  The corpus in the main chapel is askew on the cross, with some pieces of it having fallen on the tabernacle below it.  The choir stalls were set askew to new places.

The Sisters are continuing their Masses and prayers as usual except they ended last night at Sundown (5:30 instead of 7:30) and they started this morning at 6:30 AM instead of 4:05.

I am very touched by everyone's concern.  I called mom as soon as we got electricity. I was glad to relieve her worry and of you all.

Love and friendship to all.  Thank you for your prayers and please continue them for the more needy!

[Fr.] Tony Gorman OSB


From: Edward Vebelun
Sent: Sunday, March 13, 2011 5:32 PM
To: Saint John's Abbey List
Subject: Earthquake Update

I know the global reports of the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis are widely circulated and that you are well aware of the broad scale of disaster in Japan.  The daily reports from around the country have become exhausting and overwhelming.  Please keep all of Japan in your prayers.

We have one remaining concern in our community.  Br. Maria Dominico Takahashi's family lives in a small fishing village in the Miyagi Prefecture.  The area was hit by tsunami.  He has been unable to make connection with them, and we are increasingly worried about their safety.  The lines of communication have been slow to recover in that region, and there has been no mention of his specific village in news reports of disasters, so there is still every reason for hope.

Br. Tada was trapped on a shinkansen [aka the bullet train] for a night and slowly made his way back to Fujimi two days later.  Fr. Tony and the [Trappist] sisters of Nasu suffered damage to monastery buildings and the loss of the chapel Mary statue.  Br. Takahashi safely passed the time in Shirako, where he was on retreat.  Shirako is vulnerable to tsunami damage due to its proximity to the ocean.  Fr. Kieran's travel plans in Tokyo were rerouted, and he was given an unplanned night's stay at the Meguro parish [in Tokyo].  Fr. Roman's return to Fujimi was delayed for a day.  The monastery itself suffered no significant or apparent damage.

The especially strong earthquake shook the monastery for about 3-4 minutes at 2:40 on Friday, March 11, with repeated aftershocks.  The earthquake is considered to be the strongest in modern history in Japan.  It registered 9, centered off the coast of Sendai, and brought tsunamis to the shore.  Tsunamis hit several shores in Japan and up to twenty different countries along the Pacific Ocean.


[Fr. Edward Vebelun OSB
Trinity Benedictine Monastery
Fujimi, Japan]


From: Roman Paur OSB
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2011 3:56 PM
To: Saint John's Abbey List
Subject: More

The tragedy continues.  Fortunately we are all safe and our buildings are sound as far as we can tell.

The parents of one of our monks, Takahashi, still cannot be contacted and we're worried about their safety and life.  They live in the area hardest hit.  A Canadian Redemptorist priest working in the immediate area, though, was killed when his car was swept away by the tsunami.  There are still thousands missing.

Another big worry now is about the nuclear meltdown.  It looks like #3 is going also.  We're about 300 miles south and west of them and the wind is blowing the fallout for now out to sea to contaminate the fish.

The trains are all stopped again for track inspection so everyone is staying put.  They should resume today for the most part.  We are still getting quite noticeable aftershocks.  In some parts of Japan there are scheduled brownouts because of shortages.

There are many accounts of the incredible response of the Japanese people who are helping one another generously with meals, clothing, water, shelter, etc.

What a disaster.

Thank you for your prayers and concern.


Roman Paur OSB, Prior
Trinity Benedictine Monastery
3105-1 Fujimi, Fujimi-machi, Nagano-ken
399-0211 Japan (from USA)