Interview with Bro. Tono, SDB
The most senior Provincial Economer in the EAO Region
Tokyo, Japan, 22 June 2018 -- Br. Tono is the most senior provincial economer in our Region – 78 years of age with 20 years of experience in this ministry. He is one of the four Salesian Brothers (GIA, KOR, THA, VIE) who exercise the ministry of provincial economer in our Region.
What makes you happy as a Salesian?
For example the many works, I have received from the Congregation I exercised with joy and professional contribution. Also daily sharing in our community life fills my heart with joy. It is not always easy, but it gives meaning to my life. To live together is a motivation of my deep joy!
The most challenging experience in your ministry of Provincial Economer?
I was entrusted with the ministry of provincial economer two times - first time I was a provincial economer for 8 years and now for second time for past 12 years. There were really difficult moments in this role, especially when there was no money available at the province level (during my first term). But it was also a strong experience of God’s Providence. Always when was a need, the necessary donations arrived from some benefactors.
What does sustain your vocation?
I think my vocation is sustained by prayer energy and community life, both help me to live my consecrated life. And what is my favourite prayer? Every day when I enter the chapel in the morning, I greet God with the prayer of Our Father, then greet our Mother with Hail Mary and offer the Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
What memory do you treasure from the previous EAO Brother Congress?
I have participated already in the 2nd EAO Salesian Congress in Hua Hin (1991). I keep in my memory that there were 10 Salesian Brothers from Japan. That means about half of the 20 present in our province at that time. And I can’t forget one very passionate talk given by Fr Joseph Zen (now Cardinal and Bishop emeritus of Hong Kong).
What about new generation of Salesian Brothers in Japan?
Thanks to God, we have a new generation of young Salesian Brothers in Japan, also the youngest like Br. Takeshita or Br. Tsubaki. But in the Japan Catholic Church we are afraid to make more promotion for the religious brother vocation, since we lack too many priests.
And what about the visibility of Salesian Brother?
In Japan we have some Congregations with many (local) Brothers like Marist, St Paul, Marianist or De La Salle Brothers. The difficulty is to how to express clearly our vocation with the young people! We can talk about what the religious Brothers are doing, but the young people don’t’ see the religious brothers in daily life. We need to improve always our visibility. For example, it’s very important to keep the presence of some Salesian Brother among the SYM youth and keep the brothers present in the summer Bible camp in Nojiriko. In the past were present many Brothers in the Salesian Polytechnic as teachers in technical field. We need also to recognize that in the past the figure of the Brother was not well appreciated by the Superiors and Rectors. We had some ‘factotum’ Brothers, but now we have many Brother with university degrees and professional approach. Yes, the image of the Salesian Brother changed a lot for good over the years.
What about the personal qualification of the Brother?
Before I joined the Salesian Congregation, I was a tailor and I felt this has no future. Then after the novitiate wanted to start the study of administration, I was just 21 years old. But when I make this request, the reply of the Provincial was very clear: ‘More important is to work, no need for you to study now!’ Since I could not study as regular student, I have enrolled to the University by correspondence and after 3 years of administration studies, I got the BA degree. Although I continued to work in the tailor workshop I was already helping in the administration office as well and it became my professional contribution until now!
Could you share any advice to the younger generation?
I believe in Japan we need not only personal human maturity - open heart and wide vision, but it’s also important to have a good professional preparation in the Church, wherever we work. We need degrees in the school, social work or communication. It’s a delicate issue – when we talk about self-realization to use the gifts of God for the mission, I received a good professional preparation when the professional preparation is lacking also the vocation of Salesian Brother.