Scarboro’s founder Monsignor John Mary Fraser, at 73 years of age, established the Japan mission at the invitation of Bishop Yamaguchi of Nagasaki. With foreign missionaries expelled from China and the closure of Scarboro’s China mission, Monsignor Fraser faithfully looked to Japan as his missionary society’s next site. He writes in his memoirs: “Bishop Yamaguchi sent me a cordial invitation to go to Nagasaki. He wished me to rebuild a large church, Queen of Martyrs, destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945…I left San Francisco, May 28, 1950, and arrived in Tokyo on June 20, this being my 12th crossing of the Pacific…”
Scarboro priests served many parishes in the Catholic archdioceses of Japan. The parishes of Takanawa in Tokyo; Ichinomiya, Oshikiri, Inazawa, Mizunami and Minokami in the Diocese of Nagoya; and Yoshizuka and Minami Kasuya in Fukuoka are among the many parishes founded by Scarboro priests. Besides these, there are many other diocesan parishes where Scarboro priests served with distinction. Several parishes, including Toyoshiki in Tokyo, Totsuka in Yokohama, Ichinomiya in Nagoya, and Minami Kasuya in Fukuoka had new churches built during the last 20 years while Scarboro priests were pastors there. Scarboro missioners also set up credit unions in Japan in the early 1950s and 60s that are still thriving today.
Another aspect of working in Japan was the interaction with peoples of other faiths. Shintoism and Buddhism are the country’s major religions. Christians form less than one percent of the population and Catholics less than .05 percent. In sharing his mission journey in the pages of Scarboro Missions magazine, Fr. John Carten said that by experiencing the friendship, goodness, generosity, and kindness of the Japanese people, he saw the face and presence of God. “In our openness to other faith traditions,” Fr. Carten said, “we are privileged to taste another aspect of God’s beauty and truth.”
A greater legacy than the church buildings or credit unions that Scarboro left behind in Japan are the friendships that have continued and the regard that many Japanese Christians still hold for Scarboro priests they once knew. This relationship continues in Canada through the small Japanese Catholic community that gathers monthly at the Scarboro Missions central-house to celebrate mass in Japanese and support one another.