It has been nearly 70 years since Viatorian missionaries from Canada and the United States opened a school for boys in Kyoto, Japan, but their standard for academic excellence at Saint Viator Rakusei School has not been forgotten.

Last month, Japanese officials awarded Fr. Gaétan Labadie, CSV,  with the Order of the Rising Sun. This prestigious tribute recognized Fr. Labadie’s role as a foreign national who contributed to the promotion and development of education in Japan.

The ceremony took place in the residence of the Consul General of Japan in Montreal and drew many dignitaries, including Masashi Adachi, special advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan and a former student of Saint Viator Rakusei School. Also present was Fr. Nestor Fils-Aimé, CSV, Provincial Superior of Canada.

Fr. Labadie is now retired and living back in his native Canada, but he devoted his teaching career to the students and families of Rakusei School, serving as a teacher, principal and president.

“I have spent 50 years at Rakusei working in youth education, but I never thought that one day I would receive this award,” Fr. Labadie said. “For me, teaching was a joy. Through teaching English, I felt that I opened up windows to the world for my students and I am proud of that. In addition, through religious education I was able to produce responsible and conscientious citizens, which was also important to me.”

Fr. Labadie in the chapel at Rakusei

Fr. Labadie was the second Viatorian to receive this high honor. The first was Fr. Genji Murata, CSV, who served as principal of Rakusei for 16 years. He received the award in 1986, before he retired in 1988.

“Rakusei was founded in 1952, thanks to the Clerics of St. Viator,” Fr. Labadie added. “At that time, many Canadians and Americans were sent to ensure the smooth running of the school. It is now 70 years since the Viatorians have dedicated themselves to this school. It is partly because of that, that Rakusei has become a very famous school in Kyoto and Japan.”