Oct 31, 2009

Late in the fall

Within a few hours, month of October will be over and November is starting with, it seems according to the weather forecast, drastic weather change from fall to winter in Japan. Just to catch up the glimpse of fall, I have been to SADO island on Thursday and Friday. Weather was fine and sea was very calm. I had a choice of 2 and half hours Ferry boat trip or just an hour Jetfoil (very high speed ship with turbine jet engine) trip. In the Ferry boat, I would be able to move around and enjoy sea breeze but in the Jetfoil, I have to buckled down to a seat just like an airplane. To maximise my time in SADO island, I took Jetfoil this time on both ways.

The Church building of SADO which has been chosen by the local government as one of the best 100 local treasures in SADO was built in 1887 by a Paris missionary (MEP). The present parish priest is Fr.Kawasaki who has been my Vicar General and the director of the Kindergarten adjacent to the parish. Sado has been enjoying a lot of attention because of existence of TOKI, Japanese crested ibis. The bird is the original species in Japan and, unfortunately, the last wild one died a few years ago in Sado. It is almost the extinct species. However the Japanese government managed to borrow several of them from China and now trying to breed them artificially in order to bring them back to the nature. As at present, they have released several TOKIs in Sado and many of them are surviving. I could not see any of them in wild but visited the center where TOKIs are artificially bred and trained to return to the nature.

SADO has been known as an island of gold mine for many years and also as an island of exile in Japanese history. According to the history, many Christians are sent to the island during the persecution times and died here. There is a place called HYAKUNIN ZUKA (A hundred people's tomb) in middle of the island in top of a mountain where, according to the tradition, the executed Christians were buried. Very important place for us.

By the way, two meetings were held in Niigata today, Saturday. In the morning, a meeting of the Khabarovsk group met together to discuss about next year's planned youth gathering in Khabarovsk. The group will come with a concrete plan for the gathering very soon to inform our youth to join the event. I also hope to organise another visit of Khabarovsk at least once in next year other than the youth activity. The group is hoping to organise the gathering from 23 to 30 August next year.

In the afternoon, a meeting of the committee which organised the 10th National Assembly of the "KA-SHO-REN", Catholic Association of Disabled Persons of Japan held in Niigata in August was held. The representative from the central office of the association also joined today's meeting to discuss about the possibility to establish the local association of disabled Catholics in Niigata. We could not come to the conclusion today but I hope that some kind of the structure would be realised in near future in the diocese.

Oct 26, 2009

Confirmation in AKITA

Twelve people received the sacrament of Confirmation during last Sunday Mass in Akita parish. It was a part of my official visitation of the Akita parish, though I have visited and said Mass already in Akita in September for their 125th anniversary. Well, it is good to visit the parish on usual Sunday so that I can see the real attendance of Sunday Mass. Akita supposed to be the biggest parish in the diocese and, because of the number and history, I expect more effort of the evengelisation from the parish community though I do understand the difficult cultural and social situation in rural Akita.

The parish priest, Fr.Makoto Nagayama, SVD did very well in preparing alter boys and girls utilising his talent as a high school teacher for over the years. Among these 12, 4 were students of SEIREI (SSpS)schools; 3 students of the high school and a student of the junior college. All of them have their unique history to reach this day. It is not so usual to have so many catholic students at one time in our "Catholic Schools" in this rural area. Congratulations and I will expect all of you to be responsible members of the community in Evangelisation. (Photo above: Akita Parish church on the confirmation Sunday)

By the way, the rumor about him was really true. Last Saturday, Holy Father accepted a resignation of Cardinal Martino as the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and appointed Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson as its new president. Cardinal Turkson, 61, is from Ghana, my beloved second home country. The cardinal has been an archbishop of Cape Coast, very traditional Ghanaian see. He was appointed the archbishop in 1992 while he was still studying for his doctorate in Rome after his archbishop, famous late archbishop John Amissah died in motor accident in 1991. The late archbishop was the first Ghanaian to be elevated to the episcopacy in age of 34 in 1957 and was a strong voice against any social injustice committed by the authority. When one of his diocesan priest was arrested because of his opposition to the dictatorship of the army government, the late archbishop went to the police station and stood in front of the main entrance over night to demand his release. That is one of his famous stories. I attended his funeral Mass in Cape Coast, since I was working in Ghana at that time. During the ceremony, a fighter jet flew over the site very low and we knew that the chairman of the PNDC, the military government at that time, JJ Rawlings was flying the plane by himself to pay respect to his one of archenemies. He was really a "Big Man".

Some say that Cardinal Turkson would be a candidate for next Pope. May be. Congratulations for Cardinal.

Oct 19, 2009

Honjo's 50th anniversary

The Holy Family Parish in Yuri-Honjo city in Akita has celebrated its 50th anniversary of foundation on last Sunday. Yuri-Honjo city is a new city made up of 2 different cities, Yuri and Honjo. Since the Church is in the former Honjo city, we usually call the Church "Honjo Catholic Church". According to his article in the commemorative booklet prepared by the Parish, the Parish Priest, Fr.Kiyoaki Momota, SVD, wrote that 11 January, 1959 had been set as the date of the foundation since that was the day of the very first Mass in Honjo by a SVD missionary. In the same year, a kindergarten was also established in the Parish which celebrated the 50th anniversary together with the Church.

I was a main celebrant of the Thanksgiving Mass on Sunday. Fr.Ichise, the SVD provincial and Fr.Otaki, diocesan chancellor also joined the concelebration. During the Mass, 2 members of Honjo received a sacrament of confirmation. Though the Honjo community is a small one with only 10 to 20 Sunday Mass attendance, more than80 faithful, including several SSpS sisters from Akita gathered together to celebrate.

After the Mass, we moved to a nearby Hotel for a party. During the party, not only singing a popular song on their native Nagasaki with Fr.Provincial, the Parish priest mentioned quite important point on the future of the parish. He said though the Japanese population is aging and decreasing in the area, number of people coming from other countries are increasing in Akita area which includes number of Catholic faithfuls. So from now on, they have to think about the way to create a Catholic community with these members from other countries and that will be a real challenge for the future.

Photo above is a small performance planned by Mr.Morita from Niigata during the party. The second in the line is the Parish Priest.

Oct 16, 2009


Photo above is not related to the title. It is a photo from the silver jubilee celebration of Fr.Masahiro Sato on last Monday. Fr.Sato singing with youth.

An e-mail from Fr.Tsutomu Sato, a parish priest of KAMO in Niigata and the other SATO from the photo above, brought me a good news on pilgrimage by some of the members of KAMEDA parish. According to his information, a group of 6 pilgrims from KAMEDA parish arrived yesterday at KAMO walking from NIITSU parish which is 20 km away. They left NIITSU at 9 am and arrived at KAMO at 3:30 pm. After the prayer, they went back to KAMEDA by JR train. This is a part of the pilgrimage the group has been trying to accomplish since the beatification of 188 martyrs last year November. Their plan is to cover all the parishes in Niigata area on foot whenever they have ample time. According to the information, the group will return to KAMO within next few weeks to continue their way from, for next segment, KAMO to SANJO. What a wonderful challenge they are making! Pilgrimage on foot is one of the best way to reflect one's life, to meditate and to be converted. I was thinking about the possibility to promote such pilgrimage in the diocese to commemorate the 100 anniversary of the diocese in 2012.

Another good news. Last night in the Bishop's residence, a group to plan for on-going formation of the faithful in Niigata diocese has met first time since its establishment in May. The group consist of 5 members, namely Fr.Otaki as a leader, Fr.Sakamoto, Mr.Maruyama of Shibata, Ms.Seki and Mr.Sakaguchi, both from Terao. They have been appointed to realise the third priority of the diocese which was set by myself last year based on the discussion of the Diocesan Pastoral Council. The third priority says, " In order to become a diocese with mature faithful, diocese will provide opportunity for on-going formation". They will meet once a month and will come out with a master plan by next April.

Oct 13, 2009

Fr.Sato celebrated his silver jubilee.

Rev.Fr. Masahiro SATO, a diocesan priest of Niigata, celebrated his silver jubilee of ordination as a priest yesterday in Shibata parish where he has been a parish priest for past 2 years. More than 200 people gathered together to celebrate 60-year-old Father's jubilee including 13 fellow priests. I presided over the jubilee Mass and Fr.Yoshi-ike, a diocesan priest of Tokyo and a parish priest of Koenji, gave a homily. Frs.Sato and Yoshi-ike became friends when they were in Rome for higher studies number of years ago. According to Fr.Yoshi-ike, Fr.Sato was a student who had spent more time in his room studying alone rather than in class room. Whatever that means, both enjoyed living in Rome.

After the Mass, we managed to take a group photo in front of the famous chapel designed by Antonin Raymond for the first time as you can see from the above. Until recently, the road in front of the chapel was so narrow that no one can see the front face of the chapel. The city government did very good job to widen the road by shifting some houses, though not for us but for the development of the city, so that we are now able to stand in front of the chapel to take photos.

After the photo session, we moved to a hotel in near-by Tsukioka Onsen, a famous hot spring area, for celebration. Congratulations, Father Sato and many more blessed years as a priest.

Oct 12, 2009

Justice and Peace meeting in Ageo

The Justice and Peace commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan held 3-day general assembly in Saitama diocese from 10 to 12 October. On Sunday, 11 October, participants visited different parishes in the diocese to celebrate Sunday Mass together with the parish congregations and also to organise study sessions in respected parishes. I was asked to give a talk for the 8th study session organised by Caritas Japan on the poverty issue. The theme of the study session was "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace" which was the theme of the message of Holy Father on the 42nd World Day of Peace 2009. I had an hour to give a talk before Ms. Inae, a Caritas Japan Programme Officer, who gave an hour talk on the actual projects of Caritas Japan in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Uganda. With a mighty assistance by Power Point, I spoke on the reality of poverty in the world, MDGs and Church's Social teachings especially quoting from both Vatican II and Pope John Paul's "Centesimus Annus".

In "Centesimus Annus", late John Paul II gave a good insight on the Human Development issue such as this one; "Finally, development must not be understood solely in economic terms, but in a way that is fully human. It is not only a question of raising all peoples to the level currently enjoyed by the richest countries, but rather of building up a more decent life through united labour, of concretely enhancing every individual's dignity and creativity, as well as his capacity to respond to his personal vocation, and thus to God's call (29)".

If we see the reality of this world, particularly 8:2 division among people which means 80 % of world population possesses only 20% of world wealth, we have to say that raising all populations life level to the one of, say, for instance, Japan is impossible considering present environmental crisis and limit of natural resources. Realistically, re-distribution of world wealth at this moment is unrealistic to think about. Then what can we do? Then come that word of JPII. Our aim as a Catholic Aid worker is to realise the world where every individual is fully capable to respond to his or her personal vocation and that would be called the Integral Human Development.

Thank you for more than 60 people who joined the study session for more than 2 hours and I also enjoyed lunch with them after the session.

Before the session, I celebrated Sunday Mass with more than 100 people in Ageo Church assisted by Fr.Nakamura, a parish priest and a permanent deacon Rev. Saito who used to be a lay leader of Ageo. This Sunday Mass was especially planned for kids. Just before we started Mass, an alter boy turned around and told me in this way; Bishop I hope your homily would be good for us, kids. Well, well. A good homily for kids. I tried my best during the homily. I hope it was good for these kids in Ageo.

Oct 10, 2009

SVD ordination in Nagoya today.

There will be a priestly ordination for 2 SVD seminarians in Nagoya today. Fr. Adrianus Leingere Hayon, SVD and Fr. Nikolaus Kondi, SVD, both from Indonesia, will be ordianed a priest during a Mass at 2:30 pm in Nanzan parish by Bishop Nomura of Nagoya. SVD has a programme called "OTP" or "Overseas Training Programme" for more than 25 years. Seminarians, after completing their philosophy and novitiate, can apply for 2 or 3 years experience in different language and different culture from one's own. The Japan province of SVD has also accepted number of seminarians from other countries for past 20years and many of them remained in Japan after the OTP to continue their formation in the seminary in Nagoya. 2 new priests are also the product of the OTP. Since SVDs are working in my diocese, particularly in Akita district, and also we have one Filipino SVD residing in Nagaoka to work for diocesan programme of the migrant apostolate, I hope one of these 2 will be assigned to Niigata. Congratulations for 2 newly ordained Fathers.

Last Thursday, Japan was hit by Typhoon no. 18 (we do not use international naming of the typhoon. Instead we use simple numbering system in Japan. I do not know why, though.) which left quite a damage over people's lives. As far as I know, no church facilities are damaged. I was in Tokyo for 2 meetings on Thursday and I could not come back to Niigata till next day since train system was in mess. Photo above is the Tokyo in dusk on Thursday evening after typhoon. You may see a glimpse of Mt.Fuji at the left side of the photo.

I will be going to Ageo Church in Saitama prefecture to give a talk on the Caritas activities tomorrow as a part of the National Assembly of JPIC in Saitama. I will celebrate 9 am Mass tomorrow in Ageo before the talk.

Oct 6, 2009

Return of the delegation from Russia

The 5-member delegation team which had visited Khabarovsk from last Friday came home safe on Monday afternoon with a lot of smile and a lot of story to tell. Though I was away to Tokyo for a meeting yesterday and I have not met all of them for "debriefing", Fr.Sakamoto told me that they enjoyed wonderful hospitality of the Catholic Community of Khabarovsk led by Fr.Marcelo and Fr.Ivan. Also they could manage to discuss about the possibility to have a gathering of youth in Khabarovsk next summer. We still have a lot to discuss before we would be able to finalise the idea for next summer since the concept of a gathering may be slight different in 2 countries. Probably, a week long retreat would be a good idea for youth from both countries to know each other, to share time for prayer and fun and, much more important, to feel they are brothers and sisters in Christ. Since taking a week long holiday in Japan might be slight difficult even for youth, we may have to be flexible to organise such an event but I hope at least 5 to 10 young Catholics from Niigata might be able to join the event next summer.

Thank you Fr.Marcelo, Fr.Ivan and the community in Khabarovsk. (Photo above; the team)

A district assembly for laity was held for Shibata

Last Sunday was the day for a district assembly for laity for the SHIBATA district in Niigata prefecture which includes following parishes; Shibata, Niitsu, Kamo, Sanjo, Muramatsu, Mitsuke and Tochio. The assembly was held in St.Anna parish in Niitsu. The assembly for the Shibata district has been held every year with a specific theme and this year's theme is "the role of laity in Evangelisation".

More than 100 laity gathered together in Niitsu on Sunday at 10 am for Sunday Mass presided over by myself and concelebrated by all the priests in the district. After the Mass, Mr.Ryu Suzuki from Tokyo, editor in chief of the monthly magazine "Fukuin Senkyo (Evangelisation)" gave a talk on the theme.

Parishioners of Niitsu prepared wonderful soup, "Ton jiru (miso soup with pork and vegetables)" for the participants' lunch. After we enjoyed time for sharing lunch, we came back for yet another sharing, sharing information from each parishes. The assembly ended by 3 pm.

Big thanks to Fr.Kamata, the parish priest and members of the Niitsu.

Oct 4, 2009

Takada's centennial celebration

Christ the King Parish in TAKADA, Niigata prefecture, celebrated the 100 anniversary of its foundation yesterday. I presided over the celebration Mass and Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello, Apostolic Nuncio, graced the occasion by concelebrated the Mass. More than 450 people, though some of them could not get into the chapel and joined the Mass from a class room through live telecast, gathered together to celebrate. It was in 1909, an SVD missionary, Fr.Franz Friese, traveled more than 300 km by a bicycle from Kanazawa to Takada to establish a new mission. Within 2 years, in 1911, he managed to baptise several people in Takada. There is no doubt to say that he had faced difficult situations as a foreigner just to live in a rural area in Japan a hundred years ago, not mentioning his difficulty to proclaim Jesus as Christ in traditional Buddhist area.

Since 1957, Takada parish has been under the care of OFM missionaries from Italy. Present pastor is an Italian OFM, Fr.Mario Canducci. After the Mass, during a big celebration party in a nearby wedding hall, Fr.Mario exhibit his wonderful talent of music by singing Santa Lucia with a Lady's Choir who worn choir robes from 45 years ago. There were wonderful music by a 4-brother's band and dance by Filipino mothers. Thank you everyone. It was a wonderful celebration and you did very well.

We would like to give thanks to all these missionaries who dedicated their lives to proclaim the Gospel in Takada in spite of difficult situation. We also give thanks to all these people who supported the activities and life of missionaries. We have to learn from their enthusiasm since we are doing our mission based on their heritage which has been telling us that we should not afraid to proclaim the Good News though we are facing difficulties.

Oct 2, 2009

A delegation team to visit Khabarovsk today

A 5-member delegation team from Niigata diocese is visiting Khabarovsk in Russia this afternoon and will return on Monday evening. Their visit is a part of our exchange programme between Niigata diocese and Khabarovsk Catholic Church in Irkutsk diocese. If you look at the world map carefully, you will immediately notice that Niigata is quite close to Siberia. In fact, there are twice a week service of flights by Vladivostok Air between Niigata and Khabarovsk, and also twice a week service between Niigata and Vladivostok. Then, the city of Niigata has been a sister city of Khabarovsk for many years.
We have started this exchange programme since last year and this is the fourth time that our delegation is visiting them. We may not be able to assist them financially, though. We want them to feel that they are not isolated. As a community in the same faith and as a part of the same one body of Jesus, we want to establish long term cooperation between these 2 small Christian communities.

This time, by the way I am not joining them because of other engagements in Niigata, Fr.Machida is the leader of the delegation together with Fr.Sakamoto and 3 laity from the diocese including 2 representatives from youth group. We hope to organise a summer camp in Khabarovsk for the Youth from both Niigata and Khabarovsk communities, probably next summer. Since Fr.Sakamoto is in charge of youth apostolate of the diocese, I have asked him to join the team and discuss the possibility with youths in Khabarovsk.

I wish them a safe journey and happy stay.