Once a Sacred Heart girl, always a Sacred Heart girl

5 alumnae reflect on their lives as students at Sacred Heart


Mizuki (11)

Five alumnae from the class of 1965 smile for a photo.

On January 1, 1908, four nuns of the Society of the Sacred Heart reached Yokohama with the intention of building a school that reflected the teachings of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat. Their vision came true: there are seven Sacred Heart schools in Japan today, including our own.

The International interviewed five graduates from the class of 1965: Jennifer Burkard Farkas, Marie Kreltszheim Gaspar, Michiko Yokota Matsubara, Patricia Shaver Schier, and Reiko Yamada Nakamura. The alumnae flew in from various parts of the world including Texas, Ohio, and Melbourne. The 50 year reunion oversaw the exchange of nostalgic stories that remain vivid even several decades later. All five alumnae went on to pursue a career in education.

The five women shared their most memorable event: their trip to the 1964 summer Olympics in Tokyo. Michiko said, “We had free tickets as a class and went to watch the Olympics. They thought we were athletes and told us to sign things.”

The greatest thing that shocked the alumnae were the drastic changes the school has undergone in the past five decades. “I noticed that, in the current generation, young people are more encouraged to have opinions and to express those opinions,” Jennifer said. She described the former atmosphere as holding “a certain element of fear.”

“The sisters were also strict about what we could and could not read. You had to check with the Catholic index first. We were banned from reading the works of authors like Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas, and Francis Bacon,” said Jennifer. When asked if they ever read the restricted books outside of school, Patricia said, “I was a rebel so, of course, I read the books.”

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Exemptions also played a big part in shaping their discipline. All alumnae were in agreement and said, “You needed to be organized and bring all materials with you to class.” Every Monday morning, an “exemptions” assembly took place. Students from grade 7 to 12 were called up individually and received a rank. The ranks ranged from “excellent” to “unsatisfactory”. Jennifer said, “One of the nuns saw me with my socks down and I knew I was dead meat. I didn’t get a very good ranking that Monday.” Students were not penalized for receiving a bad ranking and were, instead, asked to reflect on their behavior.

Another change they noticed was the advancement the school has made in sex education. Reiko said, “At school, we were told that, if we ever felt a fuzzy feeling in our hearts while watching a movie, we should leave immediately.” She recalls going to the cinema to watch “Tall Story” with her friends and getting up to leave after feeling that “fuzzy feeling.” The next week, the girls went to tell the sisters of their good deed. Decades later, the Mother, in charge at the time, apologized for not educating them well enough and sending them off into the world as naïve young women.

“The greatest value I learned from Sacred Heart was discipline, respect, and appreciation,” said Jennifer. When asked what advice they would give to current Sacred Heart students they said, “Especially as women, go get the best education you can. Be independent, be disciplined, and be happy, simple as that. Don’t let anyone stop you from achieving your dreams.”