Sister Mary Dolores Yamamoto
Taeko was born in Japan. Her father Siniti, was a train conductor while her mother Sigeko, cared for the family. She loved flowers and had a beautiful garden. Her childhood was happy, and she was the youngest and the favorite of the 4 daughters. They were good people, devout and faithful Buddhists. Taeko often accompanied her father when he went to the temple to pray. She felt drawn to the silence and climate of prayer and contemplation. Often, she would question herself: “Where is the true God?”
When she was nineteen, she had an accident and was in hospital for 2 months. During her hospital stay which was in the city, she was under the care and protection of her uncle, the brother of her father. It was during this time the Taeko encountered a whole new world. It was after the Second World War and the Americans were still in Japan.
While in the hospital, she met a pleasant young girl named Tomakya. They were the same age. There was something different about her and it was not long before Taeko discovered that she was a Christian and her faith was called Roman Catholic. Taeko began to question Tomakya about her faith and soon she had the courage to ask her to bring her to the Church.
Tomakya brought her to Mass one Sunday and introduced her to the assistant Pastor, a Carmelite priest from Italy named Father Zanoni. She requested to be immediately baptized into the Catholic Church. Father Zanoni replied, “No! First you must study the catechism for a year, then we will give you an examination and if you still desire in your heart, you can be baptized.” This approach impressed Taeko very deeply. She began to feel that surely the Catholic Church must be the religion for which she had been searching for the Truth.
She began her study of the Catechism faithfully every Tuesday and Sunday afternoon and would go alone for instruction to the convent of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit. She was very happy. Her parents did not know anything about her decision to convert to Catholicism. When she mentioned to them her desire to become a Christian, they began to discourage her. Her parents desired that she get married, but resolutely, Taeko said “No”. Finally, they allowed her to continue with her resolve, thinking that soon she would be disillusioned with Catholicism.
One day Taeko saw a missionary Carmelite priest walking under the trees and was greatly impressed by his obvious absorption in God. She asked him why he walks like this every day, reading from a book. He replied that every priest is consecrated to God for his entire life and that is why he always says his prayers or Divine Office. This idea of total consecration fascinated Taeko and she asked herself: “Is this what I have so long desired?” She was convinced that she must offer to God the life that remained for her to live. She experienced the depths of how much God loved her!
Soon Taeko was ready to receive Baptism and went to Father Zanoni with her request. The date of her entrance into the Catholic faith was set on August 15th, 1955. She chose the name “Clara” as her baptismal name. When she received Jesus in the Eucharist for the very first time, she could hardly breathe. So much joy filled her heart! She also received Confirmation on the same day.
She now desired to enter the convent and found the courage to ask the Pastor. He was shocked and exclaimed, “What? Are you crazy? You’ve barely received baptism! You’re only six months a Catholic and now you want to enter a convent? It’s impossible! Forget it! You must marry, marry, marry!” She had no desire to marry, and finally the Pastor relented and said she must wait for one year. He would then write her reference and help her. For a whole year, Taeko prayed and prayed. After the year had passed, she returned to the Pastor with her firm resolve to become a nun. He said to her seriously, “Remember, there is no turning back and may God be with you!”
While attending Catechism classes, her instructor was a young woman named Grazia (Junko Tsukamoto). She was Taeko’s Godmother of baptism and confirmation. One day Grazia told Taeko that she was entering a convent in Tokyo called the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master. She invited her to come and visit her at the convent. Taeko went to visit Grazia at Christmas time and was introduced to Mother Maria Pia Chiavassa and Sister Maria Luciana Lazzarini, both Italian sisters. She was immediately attracted to the Sister’s way of life and prayer.
With all her documents and the blessing of the pastor, Father Joachim, she made the decision to enter the convent. The date was set on December 8th, 1957, but she could not escape from the house of her uncle. The only other date was December 21st of that year. When her parents found out about her entrance into the convent without their permission and knowledge, they were very angry.
Taeko entered on December 21st, 1957 as a pre-Postulant and then a year later entered Postulancy. She was sent to Rome for her novitiate and left for Italy with Nobu Umeki, who later received the religious name Sister Maria Luciana. She, like Taeko, came from a Buddhist family. This knowledge helped her a lot and she was glad to share her religious formation with someone in a similar situation. Finally, they arrived at the port of Marseilles in France and then, went on to Rome. She was happy to be there and to become a Sister Disciple of the Divine Master.
Taeko made her First Profession on May 7th, 1961 and was given the name Sister Maria Dolores in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows. She made her Perpetual Profession on May 7th, 1966 in a moving and very beautiful celebration. Sr Maria Dolores is a true missionary disciple and has served God in the following places: Japan, Italy, Ireland, France and the United States of America. She is now living in the community of Fresno, California where she continues to shine as a joy filled sister and gives her generous service to all.