Nov 16, 2013
Southern part of Philippines, especially the Leyte island was terribly damaged by one of the strongest Typhoon in the history. So many people lost their lives and everything which they had. Family members have been separated. Still so many people are waiting for help to come.
We know how terrible it is to be hit by such disaster as we in Japan also experienced such in 2011 and many people are still struggling to recover from the loss caused by the disaster. It is so difficult to find hope for the future in disaster hit area. We also know that our brothers and sisters in Philippines also prayed for us in 2011 and still doing so. Such kindness brings us hope for the future. So now it is our turn to pray for victims in Philippines and begin our support to bring them hope for the future.
Caritas Philippines has started their rescue and rehabilitation activities with other Caritas member organisation all over the world under the coordination by Caritas Internationalis. Caritas Japan has also joined the effort and started special collection in Japan since last Monday.
Korea and Japanese bishops gathered for annual exchange meeting in Kanazawa this week also said a Mass for Philippines on 13 November in Kanazawa Catholic Church. Photo above is a message by Caritas Asia addressed to Caritas Philippines to show our solidarity with people of Philippines. May God bring hope for the future to our brothers and sisters in Philippines. May the victims of the disaster who lost their precious lives rest in peace.
We have moved! From the first day of November, the chancery office of Niigata diocese and bishop's residence have moved into a new building. Though the entire construction works are still going on in the Cathedral compound, we had to move so that the present building would be demolished for other plans.
The New House, which comprises of our chancery office, meeting room, common dining room for retired priests, the Cathedral priests and myself and a bishop's residence under one roof is a single story flat
built with local wood. Main structure of the new house is made of local ceder trees.
Present Bishop's house which is more than 80 years old wooden two story building was not strong enough any more to resist major earthquakes, though it withstood several of them in the past, and being quite inefficient in energy conservation. As the diocese was celebrating 100th anniversary of its establishment as the vicariate in 2012 and the Japanese government has announced their intention to raise consumption tax next April, I thought it is high time to begin restructuring of the Cathedral compound and rebuilding of the chancery office/ Bishop's house. Also decision of the Missionary Sisters of Sacred Heart to close their Kindergarten behind the present Bishop's House by the end of March, 2011 and absence of any new plan for that plot also prompted me to organise a committee by both priests and laity to come out with new plan for the Cathedral compound.
The demolition of the present house has started already and by today, we do not see the old house any more. We also have decided to continue to use two story building behind the present Bishop's House, though it is also more than 80 years old but could be renovated, for priests to stay or retire.
Entire construction works will complete by the end of the year. However the official opening and blessing of the house is scheduled on 10 May to avoid bad and cold weather of winter in Niigata.
Since the new building is in the same Cathedral compound, there is no change for the postal address or telephone number.
Nov 15, 2013
The 19th gathering of both Korea and Japan Catholic Bishops were held in Kanazawa in Nagoya Diocese from 11 to 14 November and attended by 19 Korean Bishops and 17 Japanese Bishops. 17 Bishops from Japan means entire Bishops Conference of Japan attended the meeting.
Bishops had 2 study sessions on the "PACEM IN TERRIS" of John XXIII which celebrates 50th anniversary of its publication this year. Each Bishops Conferences provided one lecturer respectively on the issue. It was quite interesting to learn about the background history of the encyclical and also realise contemporary meaning of the teachings of the Pope.
Also during the gathering, we visited historical sites related to Takayama Ukon whose cause for beatification Japanese Bishops are working on. Takayama Ukon was one of Catholic feudal lord born in 1552. Because of his faith he had to give up everything he had including his status and his territory. From 1588 till 1614, he was given a refuge by Maeda family in Kanazawa and stayed there till the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered him to leave Japan to Manila. He died in Manila on 3 February, 1615. Catholic Church in Japan through consultation with Holy See has been working for his cause for beatification as a martyr since he lost everything of his life because of his faith in Jesus Christ and died in exile.
On 13 evening, we had a Mass with parish community of Kanazawa joined by the Apostolic Nuncio. The last day, half a day, was dedicated to group sharing. It is not so easy to have such sharing because of language difference but we manage to do so thanks to number of interpreters.
The 20th memorial gathering will be held in Korea next November.
Nov 10, 2013
The Episcopal ordination of Bishop Bernard Taiji Katsuya of Sapporo was held on 14 October at 2 pm in Fuji Women's University in Sapporo and attended by around 2,000 people. All the Japanese Bishops plus Apostolic Nuncio and a friend bishop from Philippines joined the ordination Mass with more than 50 priests from all over Japan. Congratulations for Bishop Katsuya and people of Sapporo diocese.
As I was one of two co-consecrators, there are no photos during the Mass. I was an apostolic administrator of this diocese for past 4 years. Thank God finally we got a new bishop. It was November 2009. I got a call from Nuncio telling me that Holy Father accepted the resignation of Bishop Jinushi of Sapporo and decided to appoint me an administrator. Bishop Jinushi was already 3 years over the retirement age of 75. Well, I did not receive any appointment letter from Holy Father but a one from the Propaganda Fide. Since then, I had to travel at least once a month to Sapporo which was an hour flight from Niigata. To be honest, it was not easy.
I am sure Bishop Katsuya is the best choice as a new and energetic pastor of Sapporo diocese. My homily during the ordination Mass is as follows.
"For my power is greatest when you are weak," "Virtus in infirmitate perficitur"
The power of God can not work when we, human beings, forgot that our wisdom and knowledge has certain limit and try to find our own solutions. The gospel will not be proclaimed when we forgot to talk about God and tell the stories of our own. We have to admit our limitations. We have to admit in humility that human wisdom and knowledge has clear limitations. With this humility, as we stand humbly in front of the mighty power of God, then finally the power of God may be able to work freely and the will of God be accomplished. Gospel proclaimed. Knowing all these and hoping the will of God alone be accomplished, Bishop Katsuya chose this motto to devote his entire life as a successor of apostles.
Dear brothers and sisters of Sapporo diocese. Congratulations. Now you have your pastor. It has been almost 4 years since the resignation of Bishop Jinushi had been accepted in November, 2009. I am sure from today on, Bishop Jinushi is able to feel the real relief of retirement. Of course, the Church never left the people of God in Sapporo and have been appointed myself as an apostolic administrator. However, as I have to take care of my own Niigata diocese, though it is a small one, I could not always walk along with you. Probably among members of this diocese, there would be some who never saw my face. Thank you so much for your patience and prayer. From today on, Bishop Katsuya will be with all of you as your pastor.
Sapporo diocese faces full of challenges as other dioceses in Japan such as aging of majority of members, declining number of youths and very few response to the vocation, especially for the priesthood. However, I witnessed strong and active participation of laity, religious and priests in this diocese to contribute to face these challenges. Probably many of you think that I made several merciless appointments in this diocese such as appointing a priest to two or three parishes as a sole pastor. I do agree. Decisions to make such appointments were not mine alone but results of active participation of diocesan priests to consider future of the diocese and take active part in the evangelization in Hokkaido. Bishop Katsuya was always played leading role in such decision makings.
Past 4 years, we hold regular meetings of members of the former priests' senate, and organized two sessions of preparatory commission for future diocesan pastoral council. I am sure that you will make great steps forward once the pastoral council would be established because I am the witness of active participation of laity in this preparatory commission. Bishop Katsuya has been in the center of these strong movement to set future pastoral direction of the diocese. He knows challenges and the plausible way to find solutions.
It was during the Mass of thanksgiving after one year of my presence in Sapporo as the administrator, someone prayed during the general intercession that I should be transferred from Niigata to Sapporo. It was my first time to pray God that the prayer should not be heard. Well, after all, it is better to have a bishop from this diocese since he knows the situation and challenges of the area. But as you know, Bishop Katsuya does not have enough diocesan priests to work with. Concerning number of priests working in parishes, making him as the bishop of this diocese means less number of active parish priests, say, minus one in number. Yes, Sapporo diocese has three seminarians but it may take at least 7 years for a seminarian to be ordained. Considering all these situation in this diocese, I would like to make urgent appeal to all of you gathered here today and through you to all the members of the diocese that please walk along with Bishop Katsuya. Try to face the challenges of evangelization with Bishop Katsuya. Together with Bishop, try to create strong parish communities. Evangelization is not duty only for priests and religious but the one for all of us.
Since his election in March this year, Pope Francis made several comments of his own view on the qualities and requirements for Bishops. In June this year, Holy Father spoke to Nuncios as follows: "For episcopal appointments, be careful that the candidates are pastors close to the people, fathers and brothers, that they are gentle, patient and merciful; animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life, that they do not have the psychology of "Princes."
Then during the seminar for new bishops organized by the congregation for Bishops this year, Holy Father made following three points to new bishops. "To welcome with magnanimity. To walk with the flock. Then presence in the diocese."
Especially for the third point, Holy Father said that bishops should "avoid the scandal of being airport Bishops” Then Holy Father called the new bishops that they should be "welcoming Pastors, journeying with your people, with affection, with mercy, with gentleness in your dealing with them and with paternal firmness, with humility and discretion, capable also of seeing your limitations and having a dosage of good humor."
My dear brothers and sisters of Sapporo Diocese, who would be your pastor welcoming you with magnanimity, walking with the flock and present in the diocese? Bishop Katsuya must be the one. Who in this diocese would be the "welcoming Pastor" who journeys with you, with affection, with mercy, with gentleness in dealing with you and with paternal firmness, with humility and discretion? Bishop Katsuya must be the one. You know it well much more than myself through your own experinece with him.
Finally, Bishop is also capable to see his limitations. Why? Because we know that very well from his motto;
"For my power is greatest when you are weak," "Virtus in infirmitate perficitur"
"For my power is greatest when you are weak," "Virtus in infirmitate perficitur"
Oct 6, 2013
My duty as an Apostolic Administrator of Sapporo Diocese in northern end of Japan is finally coming to the end on 14 October when Bishop-elect Katsuya will be ordained a bishop. I was appointed as the Administrator of the diocese in November 2009 so that I spent almost 4 years in both Sapporo and, my own, Niigata. My final duty for Sapporo was to attend the laity assembly in Kushiro on 29 September.
Kushiro district is under pastoral care of Franciscan Fathers (OFM) with 9 parish communities. More than 100 people gathered together in Kushiro Church on 29 Sunday and I gave a talk on "the Year of Faith and Great earthquake in Tohoku area."
As volunteers from all over Japan, half of them are non-Christians, continue to join the activities organised by Caritas Japan and Sendai diocese, we Catholics are deepening our own faith in the field and also through our activities, through words and deeds, I am sure, we are proclaiming Gospel message. Of course, we do not force anyone to accept the faith nor even join our prayer in the volunteer bases. However, many of these non-Christian volunteers return to the base again and again because they feel at home with the prayerful atmosphere of our activities. Isn't it evangelization through witness?
Then today on 6 October, I joined the 25th Catholic Shibata district laity assembly in Sanjo Parish in Niigata Diocese. Around 90 people from 8 communities in the district joined the event. The district used to be a SVD pastoral district till early 70's. At present 4
diocesan priests of Niigata take care of 8 communities including Murakami, Shibata, Niitsu, Kamo, Tochio, Sanjo, Mitsuke and Muramatsu.
Most of these communities suffer from aging membership and lack of young membership. One of their parish priests, Fr. Kamata is already over 85 and is still in charge of 2 communities and 2 KGs.
Those who gathered today shared their faith experiences in small group discussion after the Mass and lunch. Of course, the theme of the event was the Year of Faith.
Sep 14, 2013
Niigata diocese received an invitation through the Nuncio in Tokyo from the diocese of Rome to join the event of “With Mary during the night” on 12 October, 2013, which is a part of the entire program of the Year of Faith.
The invitation has been extended to the Marian shrines all over the world to join the Rosary recitation in the evening on 12 October and our Marian shrine in the diocese, AKITA, has been included. More than 30 years ago, a statue of Mary shed tears for 101 times in the convent of Seitaihoshikai (Handmaids of Blessed Sacraments, the diocesan religious group) and then-Bishop of Niigata, Most Rev. Shojiro Ito issued a pastoral letter to permit private adoration and pilgrimage. Up till today, Niigata diocese has been maintaining the same position as set by late Bishop Ito including his understanding of messages of Holy Mother. So you are free to make pilgrimage to the convent which I designated as a pilgrimage chapel for the Year of the Faith.
Because of the international time difference of 7 hours between Rome and Akita, the prayer service of Akita will begin at 11 pm on 12 October. Then at 2 am on 13 October, which is 7 pm on 12 October in Rome, international Rosary recitation will begin via satellite broadcasts. The service in Akita will conclude with Mass at 5 am. I will preside over the Mass and will be there in Akita through out the event.
You may refer to the link of the convent to find our more information.
Aug 14, 2013
On Sunday, 11 August, I made a visit to Miyako city in Iwate prefecture which had been heavily damaged by 2011 March 11 Tsunami. Fortunately, the parish buildings including the Catholic KG were not hit by Tsunami though number of members of the parish community lost quite a lot of their properties.
I celebrated Sunday Mass with the congregation of Miyako Catholic Church where I had been baptised in 1958 and attended the KG. Volunteers from Sapporo diocese also joined the Mass. The presence of these young volunteers from Hokkaido has been giving lively spirit to members of the parish. Majority of the members are now quite aged.
Sapporo diocese has been operating a volunteer base in Miyako city (photo above) from very first month after the disaster and has been sending number of volunteers. Cooperating with the local government's social welfare council, volunteers of the Catholic Church who has been operating under the title of Caritas Japan have contributed a lot to relief activities. At present, volunteers are making regular visit to temporary housings for victims to listen to the stories of people over a cup of tea.
After the Mass, one of my old friends took me to the town of Taro where tsunami had just destroyed everything including 10m high seawall. The local government is planning to relocate the entire township to higher land. But the process of relocation is moving very slow and people are still in anxiety with uncertain future. Some residents already decided to leave the town and relocate themselves in other town. Tsunami is a natural disaster but this delay of relocation plan is yet another man made disaster to destroy local communities in the area. This area in the photo used to be the center of the town with houses and shops. Behind my camera is the sea.