Jul 22, 2009

The diocesan mutual-aid system

A few years ago, still as a "novice" bishop, I was in a sacristy of one of our parishes in the diocese on my first pastoral visit of the area. Parish priest was happy to tell me that because of my visit, the church was full of parishioners. My expectation to be welcomed by a big crowd of the congregation was slightly betrayed when I enter the church to see only around 20 people there. But this is the reality of this diocese with 31 parishes for only 7,000 Catholics out of more than 4 million people.

St.Joseph parish in Sakata is one of such small communities in Yamagata prefecture. As I have been not able to assign a parish priest for Sakata, a priest from Tsuruoka has been taking care of the parish. When I made a pastoral visit of Sakata, the community shared their concern over the maintenance of their church building. Since the diocese is not able to support church communities financially, the community has to find their own means to raise fund to maintain their property. But it is not easy task for a community of less than 20. (Photo above. The Sakata community after Sunday Mass in 07) So what can we do?

In 1971, late Bishop Ito, the first bishop of Niigata, established a diocesan mutual-aid system called "Kyosai-kikin" to help such small communities in the diocese to build or maintain their buildings. All parishes in the diocese are member of the system with annual contribution of 4 % of the monthly dues from the faithful. It has been helping so many projects in the diocese. However, to support such small communities like Sakata, the system has to go through its revision so that these financially weak communities would be encouraged to borrow money from the system.

On Monday morning, the administrative board of the system met for the annual meeting in Niigata to begin their discussion on the revision of the system so that they can really meet demands of small communities.

(I will be away on my annual leave for a week beginning from this afternoon and the posting of new articles for this blog would be delayed.)

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