The dedication of Fr. Michael Coleman and Mr. Rinjin Kato

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas - The Freeman

As soon as the automatic door of the reception room opened, with his Irish eyes smiling, there he was, the indefatigable Fr. Michael Coleman -- busy as ever with his faithful church volunteer assistant Mr. Rinjin Kato.


With two suitcases full of essential items like bath and laundry soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, and some requested items like shirts, male and female underwear, reading materials, telephone cards, and more, Fr. Michael was ensuring that everything would be handed to the detainees noted in an updated list prepared by Mr. Kato.

The list contains the names of those still detained at the Ushiku Immigration Detention Center, their block and room numbers, their nationalities, the dates their requests were received or when they were last visited by Fr. Michael and Kato-san. One is not allowed to visit and meet any detainee without the complete information about their correct names, their block and room numbers, and their nationalities.

Guests are also allowed to give detainees certain security-approved and -cleared items. As visiting hours are limited, ahead of their weekly visits, Fr. Michael and Kato-san prepared the filled-out forms with the above detainee’s information and the items they lovingly sorted out for each of the designated beneficiary among the detainees in their list.

Last Tuesday, October 2, Fr. Michael and Kato-san prepared items for 30 detainees out of a total hundred or more. During their weekly visit, they try to provide the above-mentioned items to other detainees.

Fr. Michael is well-known and well-appreciated by the detainees because he remembers them and they recognize his sincere concern for them. Fr. Michael has been visiting the detainees weekly, for more than two decades now. He will turn 85 next October 8, but his age has not deterred him from his regular visits to the detainees.

After the detention visit and sharing of requested and essential items, Fr. Michael and Kato-san proceed to visit a foreign worker whose face had been disfigured due to a work-related accident. Once a month, they pass by the Food Bank to receive items to share with needy migrants. Fr. Michael, Kato-san and supporters also assist needy families for their groceries, health expenses, and other necessities.

Fr. Michael and Kato-san are tireless in their desire to bring the Lord and His love to the detainees through their weekly visits. Aside from their detention work, they also arrange for medical missions, especially for migrants who do not have health insurance and cannot afford the health costs in Japan. Fr. Michael has brought this medical mission to his parish in Toride and migrants, including our Filipinos, have availed of free X-rays and internal medical checks for women as well.

Fr. Michael points to “the One up there” who always provides and meets the needs of the detainees and other migrants. He is also thankful that many churches, groups, and individuals support his mission to bring God and His love to the needy, often forgotten detainees and migrants. He is also joyfully grateful to God for sending selfless and dedicated Mr. Kato to join him for this beautiful mission of love.

One feels so blessed being with them and witnessing their noble, dedicated service for the Lord and His people. Seeing them joyfully carrying out this weekly mission every week at the detention center and the rest of the days in their parish is truly inspiring.

May God continue to bless Fr. Michael and Kato-san with more healthy years for their dedicated service for Him and His people.

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