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A life of service: Sister Janet Tanaka

By Sisters Mary Hope Billings and Carol Marie Wildt

On May 1, 1945, Sister Janet Tanaka was born in Gifu, Japan, and named Shoko Tanaka. She grew up in a Buddhist family with an older brother and a younger sister. She completed her elementary and secondary education in Gifu. She was baptized on August 15, 1966. The possibility of her surviving because of the war conditions was questionable. However, this year, Sister Janet Tanaka will be celebrating her Golden Jubilee.

Sister Janet Tanaka

Shoko received a bachelor’s degree in English from Kinjo Gakuin University in Nagoya in 1968. She entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame at Shishigatani in Kyoto, Japan, in 1971. She was received into the novitiate in 1972 and received the name Mary Janet, going by Sister Janet. She professed first vows on August 23, 1973, at the Shishigatani convent in Kyoto. For the next 10 years, she was a teacher and administrator at the Notre Dame High School in Kyoto.

In 1983, she was one of four SSND to go to Kathmandu, Nepal, as a missionary. After a five-month language course, she began teaching at St. Mary’s School in Kathmandu and offering adult education for the poor. In 1987, she came to the United States and was a student at St. Louis University, St. Louis. She received a master’s degree in English in 1989 from St. Louis University.

Returning to Nepal, Sister Janet was a teacher and then principal at Notre Dame Elementary School in Bandipur. She worked in Bandipur for sixteen years as leader, teacher and the planter of trees.

In 2002, Sister Janet was elected a Regional Councilor for the Region of Japan, an extension of the former St. Louis Province, (now the Central Pacific Province) and served two terms. From 2013-2019, she was a delegate to the Central Pacific Provincial Assembly and the canonical representative for SSND in Japan.

Her hobbies included Zen meditation and Yoga, which she has taught to others. She used her talents to listen to people and be with them. Sister Janet is a planter of gardens, plants, flowers and trees. She loves nature.

Sister Janet’s entire life has been one of service to others. She is once again serving as a Japanese representative to the Provincial Assembly. Sister Janet also ministers as a spiritual companion, counselor, and yoga and meditation instructor.

Throughout her life and ministry, Sister Janet has strived to live You Are Sent (the constitution of SSND) and to witness to the love of Jesus for all.

Congratulations to Sister Janet on her Golden Jubilee!


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