The centennial celebration of St. Francis Xavier Chapel in Little Tokyo was also an occasion for parishioners to give thanks to God, and to remember in many special ways the 77 years of dedicated service of Maryknoll priests, brothers and women religious who served in the parish (1920-97).Archbishop José H. Gomez presided at the Nov. 25 celebration held in the small chapel and via television in the larger parish hall on South Hewitt Street. Coinciding with the feast of Christ the King, he reminded the assembly that Jesus came to serve. “God wants us to make his kingdom come,” he stressed, “to bring the vision of God to others.” The message was echoed in the keynote address at the centennial luncheon by Maryknoll Sister Joanne Doi, who grew up in the parish, and spoke of the sense of community that developed there and later as she served in Peru. “When one leaves the physical setting of a community, there is a sense that one has indeed left the community,” she said. “Yet I realize that although one has been sent out from the place, the community is within you. As community we not only live among other selves, but they live in us and we in them.”There is indeed a sense of community that pervades all that takes place at St. Francis Xavier Chapel. Over the years, especially during World War II when parishioners were sent to internment camps in California, Arizona, Wyoming and elsewhere, members of this mainly Japanese parish were the recipients of tireless dedicated service and community building, especially from Maryknoll religious who freely chose to live in the camps with the people they had come to serve.The Chapel’s administrator, Father Richard Hoynes, speaking in English and Japanese, reminded all in attendance that it was due to Leo Kumataro Hatakeyama that the parish was founded. In 1911 Hatakeyama, a veteran of the Russo-Japanese War, wrote to his bishop in Japan, Bishop Alexandre Berlioz of Hakodate, and asked for permission to confess his sins via registered mail because there were no Catholic priests at that time who spoke Japanese in Los Angeles.Bishop Berlioz responded by mail and said that what Hatakeyama requested was impossible, but that he would send a Japanese-speaking priest to attend to the needs of Japanese Catholics in Los Angeles. The following year Father Albert Breton was sent to Los Angeles and he established a Japanese mission in the Los Angeles-Monterey Diocese. Upon arrival, Father Breton advertised in Japanese newspapers that a Japanese-speaking priest was offering Mass with a Japanese homily on Christmas Day. Ten Japanese Catholics attended and became the core group of first registered parishioners. Formally dedicated in 1914 the St. Francis Xavier Japanese Mission continued to grow.Maryknoll Sister Maureen (Angela Maureen) Gunning, who taught first grade at Maryknoll School for many years, spoke about how much she loved teaching at the school. “The children so loved school and their parents helped them,” she said. “The children had hot meals every day and one of the sisters prepared them and shopped for fresh goods every day.” After she left St. Francis Xavier Chapel and Maryknoll School, Sister Gunning was assigned to Taiwan, where she served for 42 years and just returned here four years ago. She recalled a recent trip to Manzanar with the parish, which invited an imam and members of his Islamic mosque to visit Manzanar. The parishioners wanted the members of the mosque to know that they, too, have experienced prejudice simply for being Japanese. (Another trip to Manzanar is planned for April as part of the Year of Faith.)Sister Joanne Doi’s mother Agnes, 93, noted that her late husband Vincent was among the first to be baptized at St. Francis Xavier Chapel. “It’s been like a second home to us,” she said proudly. “We have a spirit of community here. The younger generation goes to their neighborhood parish, but on days like today they all come back. You see a lot of the old timers.”All five of her children attended Maryknoll School. And daughter Joanne wrote her doctoral dissertation for the Franciscan School of Theology on the faith community of St. Francis Xavier. She spoke of her formation at the centennial celebration.“I was raised in this faith community and taught by Maryknoll Sisters, yet I also came to know my vocation through a partially blind six-year-old boy named Magdaleno from Mexico,” she recalled. “During an immersion trip with campus ministers right after college, Magdaleno shared his vulnerability, strength and courageous radiance that sparked something inside of me. He revealed Christ to me and radiated God’s love for the most vulnerable. “This encounter would lead me to join the Maryknoll Sisters and mission with the Aymara people of Peru. At our center in Ossining, New York, it seemed to me that everywhere I turned radiated back to me from the community on Hewitt Street, the humble chapel on Hewitt Street with its heart centered on God.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1207/olamaryknoll/{/gallery}