By JOSE RIVERA
On June 26, members of the St. Francis Xavier Chapel Japanese Catholic Center (SFXCJCC) Youth Group, parents and friends met with Father Richard Hoynes at the site of the now demolished Maryknoll Catholic Church at the Manzanar National Historic Site to celebrate Mass.
As far as camp records show, this Mass may have been the first to be celebrated at Manzanar in the 66 years since the internment camp closure in 1945. Park Superintendent Leslie Inafuku and his wife joined us at Mass. Sr. Nancy Munro CSJ, a writer for the Los Angeles Tidings, also made the trek to join us. Sr. Nancy is currently working on articles on the unique story of the parish’s Maryknoll years and its current incarnation as the SFXCJCC. This first of two articles was published July 2.
Before Mass, we stopped at the Manzanar Visitors Center to view exhibits and films of the camp and its internees and to learn about the political decisions and hysteria that led to the incarceration of mostly American citizens. We toured the camp, including the site of the Children’s Village where orphans and foster children were taken, some with as little as one-eighth Japanese ancestry and some as young as six months old. The orphans were rounded up from the Shonien Japanese Children’s Home of L.A., Salvation Army Home in San Francisco, and the Maryknoll Home for Japanese Children.
We then drove to the site of Maryknoll Catholic Church. The church was demolished soon after the camp closed and only a sign marks its location. With temperatures nearing 100 degrees, little humidity and gusty winds, Fr. Richard conducted Mass with Youth Group members Mindy Sato and Dale Inoue Jr. serving as readers; Brandon Sato and Jenna Sato assisting as altar servers; and Sarah Jean Rivera reading prayers and intentions composed by the Youth Group. Auxiliary member Geoffrey Yamamoto led the singing with assistance from José Rivera, making it a memorable occasion.
After Mass, we stopped for some quiet moments and photos at the Manzanar cemetery featuring the iconic monument that was completed in 1943 by a Maryknoll internee, Ryozo Peter Kado.
With the kind permission of Superintendent Inafuku, we had lunch in the reconstruction of a camp mess hall. A park ranger noted that the new reconstruction did not truly represent the poorly built actual buildings. He explained that gaps in walls and floors allowed dirt and dust to blow in as quickly as it could be swept up.
Angie Nakamura shared her experiences as a former Manzanar internee. She pointed out the location of her barracks and gave us a first-hand account of what “camp” life was like.
Photos of the Mass by Chris Kokawa and José Rivera are posted on Facebook (St. Francis Xavier Auxiliary) and the auxiliary website (https://sites.google.com/site/sfxauxiliary/)
For more information about joining the Youth Group, please call (626) 576-7673.