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Love, Believe, Forgive, and Most of All, Live with the Heart Filled with Smiles!

A message from Sister Jeanne Bossé, 94 years old, a Canadian Sister living in Japan more than 60 years.

Jeanne Bossé was born in Quebec, Canada on August 20, 1916. At age 21, she became a sister of the Congrégation de Notre Dame. In 1947, at age 30, she came to Japan and taught music at a CND elementary school for 11 years, and then worked as a dorm mother for a girls’ dormitory for 16 years. Since her late 50s, she has been devoting her time to faith education by teaching a Bible study class five days a week.

Sister Jeanne Bossé, August 24, 1945

“Most important, it’s living from the heart.”

In 1947, soon after the war, Sister Jeanne Bossé came to Japan from Canada to teach Christianity. Now, while teaching Bible study class for more than thirty years, she has also been reaching out to people having problems. Today, the interviewer had the opportunity to meet with Sister Jeanne who has encouraged so many people and to ask her what she thinks is important to live a full and rich life.

“Everyone has a role. Life is a journey to find it.”

It was on a sweltering summer day in August that I visited Sister Jeanne Bossé at the Congrégation de Notre Dame in Chofu City, Tokyo. “I became 94 years old this August 20,” said Sister Jeanne, welcoming me with a warm smile. She still plays the organ every day at Morning Mass, teaches Bible study class from Monday to Saturday, and meets with those who seek for her advice, regardless of their religions.

Through her selfless devotion, she has been trying to pass on to people the importance of “living from the heart.” “The heart has no shape,” she says, “closing it off or opening it to people, it’s all up to you and your choice.” Then the interviewer asked what choice or attitude is needed to have a rich life.

“When you value encounters with people and treat them with a smiling heart, then the future will be opened to you.”

“I was 30 years old when I came to Japan. It all started at a farewell party for some missionaries who had returned from Japan and were leaving for Brazil. I had never imagined going abroad as a missionary, let alone to Japan. It was, indeed, God’s call to me. God worked on my heart. When I left for Japan, I didn’t know a word of Japanese. Sixty years later, at this age of 94, I am still learning it. That’s because God gave me the role to do so. God plans not only for Christians, but His mighty power is extended to everyone, giving each of us a special role to live in this world. You discern your role with an open and supple mind.

“Whomever you meet and what pleasure or difficulties you face in your life, everything that happens in life has an important meaning. However, if you harden your heart and avoid contacts with people, then nothing happens. We tend to repeat this kind of mistake. Human beings cannot live alone. We are made to love each other.”

“To love, you value contacts with people and accept them with a warm and smiling heart. Then your future is all open for you and you start seeing your way through.”

Interviewer: “Having a warm heart full of smiles may make a difference in our daily lives. However, there are times when our heart is frozen and angry, for various reasons, like when having marital problems or suffering the pains of human conflicts. Then, what should we do?”

“We want to be better understood and recognized. When that fails, or when we don’t have enough love in our heart, we tend to have negative feelings such as jealousy or anger. It happens to everybody, but negative feelings are toxic to our heart. When they accumulate, we no longer have ‘the heart to forgive’. What is most difficult for humans is to forgive. Why difficult? Because we become so self-centered that we forget to understand other people.”

Interviewer: When people come to Sister Bossé for advice on their marital problems, she shares with them the lights she received at marriage encounter workshops, wherein the spouses, after a conference, exchange their written reactions. They then become aware that they don’t know each other even after living together for years.

After thirty years, she still keeps the habit of writing love letters every night.

“I am not married, so I write love letters to God with whom I live (laughter). In the letter, I thank God for the blessings and nourishment He gave me that day; I ask God to bless the people I met that day; I reflect on myself and my inadequacy as a human being. Here, I live with more than 20 sisters, but I cannot say I love them equally. I ask God to help my efforts to love them all equally. Even if part of you may still feel resentful and cannot forgive, God forgives you because of your efforts to be a better person. God is watching over all of us with His great love.”

Interviewer: “When young, we worry over conflicts with friends, etc. Later on, we dread getting sick and old. Some people suffer because they can’t find anything worth living for. How have you faced difficulties?”

“There is always hope after suffering. I got sick in my 70s, which turned out to be a big blessing for me.”

“One of the hardest experiences in my life was when I was transferred from Tokyo to a community in the north of Kyushu Island in my 70s. The life there was very quiet, completely different from my active days in Tokyo. I gradually lost curiosity in life; my appetite diminished, and I lost the joy of living.”

For a while, Sister Bossé tried to put up with the quiet life in prayer and patience. Her unhappy days were put an end to when she realized one thing.

“In Tokyo, I was willing to do any kind of work with a positive attitude and, without knowing it, I gradually developed pride in what I was doing. Health and job skills are gifts from God, for which we should be grateful. It is a mistake to think they are something you have accomplished. When I realized that, I became more understanding of people who suffer, and accepted with much appreciation the work given me in any kind of environment. Suffering is a test from God. Without avoiding it, turn to God and ask Him, ‘What does this suffering mean?’ Then, we will find blessings coming out of the suffering.

“Suffering is hard to face. When you get sick, you either live in distress or in the hope for a cure. It depends on how you choose to follow your heart. I had knee surgery at age 89. For two months after the surgery, I went through daily rehabilitation. I recovered well enough to visit Canada. My Japanese doctor had said that because I have faith, I recover fast. It is true that if we have faith, we can be confident that all things and all problems are in His good hands. God watches over everybody. Therefore, when you face difficulties, live positively without losing hope.”

Interviewer: “I heard your sister passed away at age 97 this year. Are you afraid of dying? To you, what is a rich life and how can we live it?”

“If you can find pleasure in working, and value every minute of your life, you will not be afraid of dying.

“When I was small, my parents gave me gifts that have proved to be of great value throughout my life: faith from my father and joie de vivre from my mother. My mother taught me to have an interest in everything and to find joy in helping other people. She was a simple country woman, spending her life cooking, dyeing threads to weave, sewing, and knitting. She sewed for her five daughters, loved nature, created a beautiful garden, played the piano and taught me the pleasure of music. That is a rich life for me: finding pleasure in working to help other people, with a warm heart and a smiling face, and living everyday to the fullest. If you live valuing each moment of your life, you will not be afraid of dying. My sister died at age 97 this year, but she still lives in my heart. Also, I am not sad.”

“If we can realize and appreciate that we do not live on our own, but that life is given to us by the almighty Power of God, we would stop being afraid of aging or dying.”

During our two-day conversation, Sister Bossé never stopped smiling. Smiling has a healing power, so do kind words, loving, believing, forgiving, appreciating… I would feel like a different person, just by recalling, once a day, what Sister Bossé told me. It is not difficult to have a smiling heart, if we so choose.

This is a translation of an article first published in Japanese by Kadokawa Magazines Inc. Posting on this site has been approved by the Editor-in-Chief, Ms. Naomi Hoyama www.mainichigahakken.net.

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