Saturday, 31 December 2016 15:09

Days of Infamy: 75th Anniversary

Written by Editorial Staff
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More than 120,000 people of Japanese descent were infamously rounded up and sent to Internment Centers in various western states, by Executive Order from the President, February 19, 1942, 75 years ago. 

Japanese citizens were forcibly taken to detention camps in 1942.

Immediately after Pearl Harbor, Seattle’s Japanese community found a staunch supporter in Bishop Gerald Shaughnessy. In a pastoral letter read in every church in the diocese on December 14, 1941, the bishop called for a whole-hearted support of the war effort—and of people of Japanese descent: “Our Catholic heritage especially inculcates upon us in these momentous hours that we embrace our fellow American citizens of Japanese extraction in a special bond of charity.” (See ) 

Fr. Tom Marti, MM, during a 2016 Christmas Party Mass at the Maryknoll House in Seattle, told of the work that Maryknoll had done in Seattle with Japanese immigrants. Beginning in the 1920s, because of their experience in Japan, Maryknoll was invited to minister to a parish in Seattle that included many Japanese immigrants. During World War II, most of people of that parish, even US citizens, were ordered into Interment camps in Idaho. Fr. Leopold Tibesar, MM, their parish priest, chose to go with them to the Minidoka internment camp. After the war, Maryknoll continued at the parish until it was closed in 1953. 

Marie Wren related that one woman and her family had no place to live when they were released from internment, but the Maryknoll priest allowed them to stay in the rectory. Upon her death many years later, it was learned that she had bequeathed her house to Maryknoll. The woman had said, ”Maryknoll gave me a home when I needed one, so now I will give them my house.” 

In the Los Angeles area, Maryknollers also ministered to a Japanese parish before the war. Similarly, when the Japanese parishioners were ordered into internment, a Maryknoll priest and Sisters went to be with them. ( 

In 1988, Congress attempted to apologize for the interment by awarding each surviving internee $20,000, and some recipients made special donations to Maryknoll at this time. 

Fr. Marti, along with the Archdiocese of Seattle Missions Office and Pax Christi, is planning a commemoration on the 75th anniversary of the Internment, Feb 19, 2017. 

This year let us update the words of Bishop Shaughnessy: “Our Catholic heritage especially inculcates upon us in these momentous hours that we embrace our fellow American citizens and residents of various faith and cultural traditions in a special bond of charity.”

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