At the stations on April 8, Jesuit Father Scott Santarosa, Dolores Mission pastor, talked with his parishioners about the suffering in Japan. “Here we are in Boyle Heights,” he told them. “Little Tokyo is just over the bridge, less than a mile away. What would you say if we showed our solidarity with the people of Japan, who are suffering right now? What if, during our stations of the cross, we walked to St. Francis Xavier Chapel in Little Tokyo?”
The response was unanimous: “Let’s do it! We want to be in solidarity with them.” Father Santarosa pointed out that, “whenever we cross over to another culture, it is mutually enriching, too.”
As another sign of solidarity, Dolores Mission parishioners wanted to give what they could to help support those suffering in Japan. So parishioners made and sold enchiladas and raised $500 to be sent to Japan with other donations.
Before they left for Little Tokyo, members of Dolores Mission’s sister parish, Holy Family Church in South Pasadena, also came to pray and bring a donation.
“We’ve been lifting up in our prayer the people of Japan,” said Cambria Smith, parish life director at Holy Family. “We’ve also encouraged people to donate to Catholic Relief Services. And we’ve been in solidarity and prayer with them.”
Smith said she saw many parallels between Japan and California. “The people of Japan represent a country that has been very successful, very affluent, and has succeeded economically,” she noted. “So when a disaster like this comes upon them, it’s a great equalizer. We look at the people of Japan in a sense of solidarity, especially living in California, for we know that for the grace of God, we may be like them. It could be us next year or next month. It is a spiritual lesson for us.”
Members of both parishes joined in a circle and prayed together. As the procession began Father Santarosa said, “When they see us coming may they feel us in solidarity with them.”
In Little Tokyo, waiting for the group to arrive, George Takahashi, a lifelong St. Francis Xavier parishioner, said he felt this effort was “wonderful” and “shows the solidarity we’ve all felt. It shows the leadership.”
He lauded Archbishop José Gomez for encouraging those who had the resources to support relief efforts. “It had nothing to do with religion; it was people wanting to help people,” said Takahashi. “That is what you really want. That is what the church has to do. It is responding to a human need.”
Once the group from Boyle Heights reached their destination, they were greeted by St. Francis Xavier administrator Father Richard Hoynes and a number of his parishioners. Praying continued in front of the church in English and Spanish; many of Japanese descent shared worship aids and joined in singing in Spanish.
Then Dolores Mission and Holy Family presented checks to Father Hoynes. Angie Nakamura, a representative from St. Francis Xavier, expressed the gratitude of the people. She also spoke about the effect of the tragedy in Japan on parishioners who have many family members living there.
And she pointed out the power of the spirit of gambate and what it means to the Japanese people. Essentially, gambate (also spelled gambatte) means to endure, do your best, and never give up.
“There is always tragedy that comes upon us,” said Nakamura, citing the years of the internment camps of World War II, and noting that a priest sent to minister to them in the camps was not allowed to live among them. But he taught them many things that remained with her. And when anyone complained in the camps, her mother would always say to them, “Gambate” — endure.
“Your coming here is such a wonderful feeling,” she told the visitors. “We are all God’s children. It makes me feel good that we are all together.”