Remembering the founding spirit of Sophia University through Xavier Week

St. Francis Xavier is one of the historical figures that could be seen often on history textbooks. His name is well-known in both world and Japanese history. The origin of Sophia University comes from the hope of St. Francis Xavier himself to establish a “university in capital”. And there is a day to celebrate Xavier at Sophia University.

St. Francis Xavier and Sophia University

Several members of Xavier Week Executive Committee (Catholic Students Association) have recorded interviews with Father Klaus Luhmer (reigned: 1958-1965, 1987-1992), former Chancellor of Jouchi Gakuin for further research on question earlier in 2001. According to the report, the Xavier Festival began in 1953 on the initiative of Father Franz Bosch (1910-1958), then Dean of Students Association. The Catholic Research Organization (the predecessor of the Catholic Students Association) hosted a one-day silent meditation at Kulturheim chapel on December 3, the anniversary of his death, as a “day of prayer”. Later in 1961, the Standing Committee of the Catholic Students Association proposed the idea to hold a weeklong programs and lectures called “Xavier Week” aimed at bringing the Catholic spirit deeply to students in general. Unfortunately, there is no clear record of whether it was actually held and what was done. In 1965, the campus newspaper, Jochi Shimbun, reported that all classes would be cancelled on December 3, the feast of St. Francis Xavier. In 1977 after 12 years from this report, the school regulations included feast of St. Francis Xavier as a university holiday.

Xavier Week has been primarily organized by the Catholic Student Association of Sophia University. In the early programs, the lectures were on the topics such as “Closer interaction of Xavier with the Japanese” or “The Vatican as a system”. 1978 was the 70th anniversary of the return of the Jesuits to Japan. A large-scale Mass and celebration were held and later on the programs included screening of the movie “Silence” by Shusaku Endo and organ meditation by the choir. Xavier Week is an opportunity to share the Catholic spirit of “Men and women for others, with others” with non-Catholic students at Sophia University and to reaffirm the founding spirit of Sophia University.

Performance by students of the Requiem written by Mozart in 1958; St. Ignatius Church*

In 1982, the eighth President, Father Mutsuo Yanase (reigned: 1981-1984), gave the following words in Xavier Festival brochure: Sophia University is established based on the educational ideals of Christian Humanism. This is Xavier’s the ideal vision for founding of the university. We Sophians should always remember the spirit of Xavier and always question ourselves what the value and purpose of our life is. It is quite important to ask ourselves these core questions. On this Festival of Xavier, we must rethink the founding spirit of Sophia and refresh ourselves. What’s more, we must be dedicated to helping people around the world who are not blessed either physically or mentally. Both in 2020 and 2021, programs were held online to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19. Perhaps it is time to reaffirm what we can do for others with limited physical contact.

Kulturheim Chapel is open to all Sophia members during the Xavier Week; October 2019*

All the photos with * marks are stored at Sophia Archives*

Sophia University

For Others, With Others