Interviewed by Sister Malia Dominica Wong, OP
Hawaii Catholic Herald
I remember when my father prayed, he used to bow and clap his hands. His prayer space contained two vases with branches in it. As for my mom, she was Catholic. But, due to not understanding the Japanese language, my 11 siblings and I were not raised in any particular faith. Faith came later as I lived my life according to however and wherever it flowed.
Growing up in Kalihi, I attended Puuhale School. My family lived on the makai side of Nimitz where the neighborhood was a little rougher than the mauka side. On the weekends, I enjoyed playing football and baseball with my friends. However, before we could play they needed to go to catechism class. Waiting outside on the lanai for them, sometimes I would peek into the classroom to see what they were doing. Their teacher was a tall person in grey with a black hat. Later, I learned she was a Maryknoll sister. I remember seeing her holding up a big picture book. She was showing them a picture of an angel, some children and a wooden bridge.
Following my friends into the church, I wondered what they were doing waving their hands about and splashing water. I thought they were hushing flies. That I also earned later was the holy water font, and they were blessing themselves. Half way into the church, I gasped when I saw a big man hanging on a cross. I was only familiar with small crucifixes. “Who in the world did that to him?!” my mind screeched within as I tried to figure the image out. I felt so sorry for that man.
One day, the Maryknoll sister told a Japanese lady to tell my mom where I had been going with my friends. Instead of getting mad at me, my mom was very happy. One day, my mom, small sister and myself were baptized. As we walked home, we wondered, “What are we getting ourselves into?” The only Catholics I knew were the ones in my neighborhood who would get drunk and fight on Saturday night and the next day go to church.
Later, I attended St. Francis Convent School. At a high school sleepover with my friends, I learned that some girls were going to enter the convent. (One became Franciscan Sister Regina Michael Nagai.) We thought they were nuts. But something stirred in me and I wanted to see where these nutty girls were going. One day, Franciscan Sister Consolata called out my name as I was playing football in the street. With her eyebrows sternly raised, she asked me, “Are you ready?” “Ready for what?” I responded.
After that, someone started to blab that if I was going to enter the convent, all the statues in the church were going to walk out the doors. They did not, and I am still here. And, whenever rough patches of life hit, I remember the saying of the good thief to the Lord, “Remember me, Lord when you come into your kingdom.”
Sister Rose Loraine Matsuzaki is a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. She is 64 years professed. From Syracuse, she was assigned to St. Joseph, Hilo, in 1960. Since 1972, she has been working and residing at St. Francis Convent in Manoa.