PARIS, MARCH 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Two of the many thousands who will join the Catholic Church this Easter are a mother and daughter from Japan. Their story is unique because the family’s father is a Shinto priest.
The Eglises d’Asie, the news agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris, reported the story of Ito Miyuki, 38, and her daughter, Kotone, 5, who will be baptized into the Catholic faith.
The celebration will take place in the parish of Yonezawa in the prefecture of Yamagata.
“My home is a Shinto temple; my work is that of a miko,” she told UCANews, referring to a woman assistant in a Shinto temple.
With only a few days left before her baptism, Miyuki continues to play sacred music during her husband’s ceremonies. After her baptism, she plans to continue to do so.
She began to work in the Shinto shrine in the prefecture of Shimane at 23.
Later, she returned to live with her parents in Yamagata, where she met Haruhiko, a Shinto priest, and they were married.
Her knowledge of the Christian faith was then very weak, though existent. She attended a Catholic high school, where she was fascinated by the story of the life and work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Three years after her wedding, during a trip to India, she visited the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta and was blessed by the founder, who gave her a rosary, which she still treasures.
However, Miyuki’s conversion came later. In 2008, during a dinner, she began to cough up blood. The doctors diagnosed cancer of the pharynx, telling her it was terminal.
Without being able to explain it, the image of Mother Teresa came to Miyuki’a mind and she said to herself: “I want to be baptized before I die!”
On leaving the hospital, she began searching to see how she could receive this sacrament, but someone close to the Church told her that, being a miko, she should reconsider her decision.
However, she persisted with her desire and contacted the parish of Yonezawa, where she was received by the team in charge of the catechumenate.
Two months later, when she was growing used to her illness, her cancer disappeared.
“My life was saved by Jesus Christ; I want to spend the rest of my life in the Church,” she thought at the time, realizing that she had become “spiritually thirsty.”
For some time Miyuki considered the possibility of abandoning her functions in the shrine, but she was dissuaded by a priest of the parish and the team of laymen that support her.
In regard to her daughter, Kotone herself went to see the priest to ask to be baptized.
“I want to know Jesus,” she said at the age of 5. “I love Jesus and I love Mary.”
Miyuki’s husband has no objection to the prospect of the forthcoming baptism of his wife and daughter. In fact, he says he feels profoundly fortunate.
“Considering my position, I can’t be baptized myself,” he explained. “But for my own part, I do wish I could. This area has a shrinking population, but despite this, all the residents continue to support Shinto festivals with monetary offerings. I feel I must do what I can to meet the needs of those who do so much to protect this shrine.”
After Easter and the baptisms, the Ito family plans to travel to France where, in the company of several Catholic priests, they will go on pilgrimage to Lourdes.