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NSKK NEWSLETTER distributed by
The Nippon Sei Ko Kai
(Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan)
 
“Mother of Kusatsu” - Unveiling Ceremony of Miss Cornwall-Legh’s Bust
Great Work done by Miss M. H. Cornwall-Legh
 
JAPAN 071201-2
December 1, 2007

NSKK NEWSLETTER 07

[The Nippon Sei Ko Kai - Japan]  On 20th of May 1857, Miss Mary Helena Cornwall-Legh was born of a distinguished family in Cambridge, England. Her father died when she was young, and she was brought up by her mother and a brother , who also died in his youth.

In her teens, Miss Cornwall-Legh attended a church, where she was greatly influenced by the rector. From then, she earnestly desired to consecrate herself to those suffering and in distress. After her mother’s death, she resolved to be a missionary, evangelizing Christian teaching to people in Japan, which she had once visited with her mother. In 1907, at the age of 50 years old, Miss Cornwall-Leigh finally came to Japan as a self-supporting missionary.

Immediately after her arrival in Japan, she learnt and mastered Japanese. She helped various Anglican churches in Chiba Prefecture, Kanagawa Prefecture and Tokyo. In 1915, at the request of some Anglican priests, she inspected Kusatsu-machi, Gunma Prefecture. At that time, Yunosawa Area of Kusatsu was known as a sanatorium for patients with leprosy. There were some Christians who voluntarily helped those patients, but they had noone to lead them. And what they really needed was a vigorous leader.

One year after her first visit to Kusatsu, when Miss Cornwall-Legh was 59 years old, she moved to Kusatsu to consecrate her life to those who had suffered from leprosy. At that time, no medical treatment had been given to those patients who came to Yunosawa; some of them had run through all their money and properties, just hoping to be cured.
When they realized that there was no hope for a cure, their hearts and minds were seriously traumatized. It has been reported that in the Sanatorium, when patients with leprosy died, nobody wanted to clean the deceased and they were immediately buried in the earth. In such a situation, Miss Cornwall-Legh took close care of the deceased, she took off the ragged clothes from their bodies, thoroughly cleaned them, put clean dresses on them, and buried them sincerely and with dignity. Miss Cornwall-Legh’s conduct brought a radical change of mind to the people of Yunosawa, and their attitude towards the deceased was changed dramatically.

Miss Cornwall-Legh offered all of her properties to those who were under medical treatment for leprosy at the Sanatorium. She asked for donations from the U.K. and the U.S.A. and with these contributions, 37 institutions were established, including homes for the patients, hospitals and schools.

Miss Cornwall-Legh purchased a hotel in the Kusatsu hot-spring spa (Kusatsu is famous for its hot spring), which was used as a hospice for the female patients, and was named “St. Mary’s Home”. This was the first step after the “St. Barnabas’ Home” in Yunosawa. After the St. Mary’s Home, homes for male patients, married couples, and families, respectively, were built. Furthermore, “St. Margaret’s Home” was established for uninfected children to protect them from infection and bring them up with tender care. While administrating these homes, Miss Cornwall-Legh devoted herself to giving guidance both in body and mind, helping Mr. Shukutani, a Japanese missionary, with Sunday services, giving Bible teaching to the Christians in the Sanatorium, visiting the patients, teaching at the Sunday School and nursery home. These activities were the fundamentals of the “Barnabas’ Mission”. She was adored by all who knew her, and called “a Mother of Kusatsu”.

Later on, National Sanatorium Kuryu Rakusen-En was established by the government, and most of her work was taken on by the National Sanatorium. Now, only the Church and St. Margaret’s Home remain, but Miss Cornwall-Legh’s dedication and great work have never been forgotten and have been handed down to this day.

2007 was the 150th anniversary of her birth, and the 100th anniversary of her coming to Japan. For this occasion, “Miss Cornwall-Legh’s Manifestation Association in Kusatsu” erected a bust in honour of Miss Cornwall-Legh who consecrated her life to those who suffered from leprosy, and on 10th of October 2007, the ceremony of unveiling took place in Kusatsu, attended by Sir Graham Holbrook Fry, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Japan, Mr. Masaki Ohsawa, Mayor of Gunma Prefecture, and the Rt. Rev. Katsuichi Hirota, Bishop of Kita-Kanto Diocese.

Prior to the unveiling ceremony, the Kita-Kanto Diocese of the NSKK held a memorial eucharist at the Church of Our Savior (Sei-Sukuinushi) located in the National Sanatorium of Kuryu Rakusen-En in Kusatsu. commemorating her activities, life and Christian faith.
At the Unveiling Ceremony held in the afternoon, children from the Kusatsu First Nursery, which evolved from the St. Barnabas’ Kindergarten, unveil the bust. This was a really heart-warming scene.

In order to pass on her works to future generations, Kita-Kanto Diocese is planning to establish a house in which various articles left by Miss Cornwall-Legh are to be maintained and exhibited. This project has already been started.

Article by: Rev. Raphael Hitoshi Miyazaki