Written in Japanese and Published in the ASAHI MORNING PAPER 20th.May 2021 (Osaka City Version)
Sr. Maria Corales, an 84 year old, catholic nun, who lives in Nishinari Osaka has been engaged in doing the “night patrol” for more than 30 years distributing “rice balls” and blankets to the homeless people on the street at night. Due to the serious spread of Corona virus, several volunteer groups suspended their activities. However, Sr. Maria continued her Tuesday and Thursday “patrol” as she says “I want to protect the life of others like everyone else without exception”.
At 9’O’clock in the evening of October 11th, a station wagon stops near the house of the Assumption Sisters in Nishinari where Sr. Maria’s community lives.
The driver is Mr. Morishita (51), the manager of a Catholic Social Welfare Corporation called Gyoukoukai. Together they departed with Sr. Maria and his handmade “Onigiri”(rice balls).
The first place they went to was an Electric Town in Nihonbashi , South of Osaka City. Sr. Maria called out to a man who was lying down in front of the store with shutters down, wrapped in a sleeping bag up to his head, “Are you OK? Do you care for Onigiri?” Sr. Maria puts one wrapped Onigiri on his gently stretched palm. He responded with a thin voice, “Arigatou” (Thank you).
They went around the other areas such as the underpass of a highway and Tenouji Park. Then they arrived at Airin General Center (that is closed at present) in Kamagasaki, Nishinari. A pile of oversized garbage and unused items are there and yet many homeless people are sleeping there. Sr. Maria kneels beside each person and says “Have an Onigiri”. Many faces are familiar to her, having been doing this for many years. Some people approach and greet her as if they were waiting for her coming. This night Sr. Maria with other staff members distributed 69 “onigiri” (rice balls).
Many of homeless people are elderly people who lost their jobs as day laborers, doing civil engineering work.
Sr. Maria came to Japan from Spain at the age of 22 as a missionary. She moved to Nishinari in 1989. “There are much less homeless people now,” she says. Two old men died one after the other lately in Kamagasaki. Sr. Maria stood at the place where they used to be and made the “sign of the cross”.
Mina Yoshimura a 20 year old college student of Kinki University started joining the “night patrol” six months ago. She happened to know a homeless person near her home. One day she noticed him in trouble. The public bench he was using for a bed was removed. She had no words for him. “What can I do for him?.......” Wanting to do something, she started to volunteer in a support group for the needy as well as in the “night patrol”. “Now not only those living nearby but even distant places became closer to me.” she says.
Last April 25th the third “state of emergency” was declared in the Osaka Prefecture. Since then, in Kamagasaki, some groups stopped their “soup kitchen” which is the lifeline for the homeless people here. Yet Sr. Maria continues what she does wholeheartedly because she wants to “protect their lives”. “No lack of supplies of masks and blankets for the homeless,” she says.
Sr. Maria wants as many people as possible know this; this is the place, environment in which homeless people are born and raised, they do not get enough education, and they are not able to get welfare support…. “It’s not their fault to live on the street. They have backgrounds and reasons for that. But one can always notice their presence and recognize their dignity. They are the voiceless in our midst.”
(Article written by: Rie Kowaka
Translated by: Sr. Christina Nakayama, RA)