On this day of Pentecost, I made a pastoral visit to the Sacred Heart Parish in Shibata city in Niigata prefecture. It is an hour drive from Niigata to Shibata. The Catholic church in Shibata is famous among architects and builders in Japan for its unique chapel. The chapel, the photo above, was designed by late Mr.Antonin Raymond who was a disciple of late Mr.Frank Lloyd Wright, the great architect of the 20th century.
The chapel was built in 1965 by the Shibata Construction Company, a local company headed by a catholic, under the strict supervision of Mr.Raymond himself. At that time, the parish priest of Shibata, late Fr. Nocon, an German SVD missionary, had completed his 3-year term as the regional superior of SVD in Japan and returned to Shibata from Nagoya in 1963. While he was in Nagoya, he got acquainted with Mr.Raymond who was working on the buildings of Nanzan University's new campus in Nagoya. Of course, Nanzan is run by SVD and superior of SVD is quite involved in the administration of the school. So Fr. Nocon invited Mr.Raymond to build a chapel for his parish in Shibata which turned to be a master piece of Mr.Raymond's buildings in Japan. Still today, Shibata church enjoys receiving many visitors from all over Japan.
When I entered the sacristy this morning, I was surprised but happy to see many kids ready to serve as alter boys and girls. Also faces from other countries among today's congregation was a positive sign that the community has been trying to build a multinational and multi- cultural community.
After the Mass, we had a celebration to inaugurate a new parish hall which had been completed already in last December but waited till today since winter time is not a good season for celebration in this snow affected area. Neighbours of the parish have been invited. According to some of them, it is their first time to attend Mass and take a close look at the chapel. Since the city road in front of the parish had been widened this year, many citizens of Shibata are now "discovering" this magnificent chapel for the first time.