PRIEST (DECEMBER 21, 1991)
CARRIED THE MISSION OF THE SALESIANS TO JAPAN
Vincenzo Cimatti was born in Faenza on July 15, 1879 to James and Rosa Pasi, the last of seven children. Of the three surviving brothers, and his sister, Sr. M. Raffaella of the Congregation of the Hospital Sisters of Mercy, the latter has been Beatified; Louis, Salesian Brother missionary in Latin America, died a saintly death, and he, Vincent, has been declared Venerable.
When he was three, they lost their father. His mother brought him to the parish church where Don Bosco was preaching, “Vincent, look, look there at Don Bosco!” He would recall the kindly face of the old priest for the rest of his life.
When he was 17, he became a Salesian and was sent to Turin-Valsalice, where he taught and also completed further studies — a diploma in music composition from the Parma Conservatorium, a degree in agriculture, philosophy and pedagogy from Turin.
When he was 24 he was ordained a priest. He taught for 20 years and was a brilliant composer at Valsalice. Generations of clerics knew him as their teacher. Meanwhile he was insistently asking the Rector Major, “Find me a place somewhere in the poorest, most difficult, most abandoned mission. I want nothing to do with comfort.”
He was satisfied in his demand when he turned 46! Don Rinaldi sent him to lead the group founding the Salesian presence in Japan. He worked there for 40 years. He won the hearts of the Japanese by his kindness and by getting involved, like Don Bosco, in the apostolate of the press and of music. He translated the life of St. Dominic Savio into Japanese.
On the 2600th Anniversary of the foundation of the Japanese Empire, he was invited to compose a sonata to be broadcast by radio. Japan’s chief daily newspaper judged it to be, “more Japanese than the Japanese.” He founded a youth band which toured the nation.
As rector of the first Salesian community in Miyazaki, he would become, three years later, the Superior of the new vice province. He travelled a lot to keep encouraging the first Salesians in Japan, opening works for those who were poor and abandoned.
In 1935 he was appointed Prefect Apostolic. After the difficult war years, complete with all its sacrifices, he founded “Boys Town” in Tokyo, accommodating 260 orphans and providing primary, secondary and technical schooling. In 1949, when he was 70 years old, he continued on as rector of the house of studies for professed members of philosophy and theology at Chofu for a further nine years.
He died in Japan, with patriarchal status, on October 6, 1965. He was recognized by both Italian and Japanese civil authorities. His body – re-exhumed in 1977 and found to be perfectly intact – now lies in the crypt in Chofu.