Nov 21, 2009

Bishop of Sapporo retired

On 17 November at noon time in Rome, it was made public that Holy Father accepted a resignation submitted by Bishop Peter Toshio Jinushi of Sapporo on reaching age limit. Bishops have to submit a resignation when we reach 75 years old. Most of the cases, announcement of retirement comes with announcement of his successor. Unfortunately there was no such announcement for Bishop Jinushi's successor this time. Therefore, Bishop's see of Sapporo has been vacant since 17 November. To take care of the daily business of Sapporo diocese, Holy Father appointed me as the Apostolic Administrator "SEDE VACANTE ET AD NUTUM SANCTAE SEDIS" of Sapporo diocese. So I will be in charge of Sapporo till a new bishop will be appointed for Sapporo diocese. Of course, I remain as a bishop of Niigata, however since I may have to visit Sapporo quite often, I may have to reduce my work in Niigata for sometime, one year or two? Please pray for quick appointment of a new bishop for Sapporo and also kindly remember me in your prayer. (Photo above. A statue of Jesus in Takatori Catholic Church in Kobe. The statue survived the earthquake and fire in 1995)

The 15th Korea-Japan Bishops Exchange meeting

Catholic Bishops Conference both from Korea and Japan, as neighbouring conferences, have been holding regular meeting in one of either country once a year by this time of the year since 1995. So the 15th meeting between Catholic Bishops of Korea and Japan was held in Osaka from 17 to 20 November which was attended by 14 bishops from Korea and 17 from Japan. The main topic of this year's meeting was to lean from life history of late Cardinal Kim of Soul who passed away in February this year. Bishop Kang U-il, bishop of Cheju and the president of the Korean Bishops Conference, who had been an auxiliary bishop for Cardinal Kim for long time gave us a talk on late cardinal's life. We also had a chance to watch a DVD presentation on his life history.

The group was divided to 3 after the talk and lunch with priests of Osaka to visit 3 different areas in Osaka to learn about reality and history of this area. I joined a group which went to Kobe to learn about severe earthquake in 1995 and visited Takatori Catholic Church which was burnt down with all other houses in the affected area after the quake. There we met those who are working for various NGOs and also visited FM YY (Wai Wai) which has been providing local information in many languages since the quake time so that foreign residents in the area are not left behind. After the study session, we also had wonderful diner in one of the local cuisine to enjoy OKONOMIYAKI, a local Japanese pancake.

After the serious meeting, we also had fun of visiting AWAJI island. My biggest surprise was the Otsuka Museum where they reproduced the Sistine Chapel precisely in size and colour. They have special technique to reproduce art on ceramic tiles. They are not just a copy but a work of art by itself.

Big thanks for Osaka archdiocese for wonderful hospitality. We will meet in Korea for next meeting.

Nov 15, 2009

Confirmation in TERAO

On this very windy, or rather stormy day in Niigata, 9 people received sacrament of Confirmation in St. John's Parish in TERAO in Niigata city. Parish Priest of the TERAO is Fr. Tadashi Machida who just turned 78 a few days ago. Because of the strong wind this morning, we were afraid that some of the candidates might not be able to reach the parish on time since they had to travel by train from outside the city. Sure the train was delayed but they managed to reach the parish on time. After the bad train accident in Yamagata a few years ago, train company, JR, is very cautious of running train on windy days.

Strong wind on the day of confirmation is very symbolic and meaningful. As we know the existence of wind by the effects of wind, such as dust stirred up or trees trembling, and not by the physical shape of wind which is invisible, Holy Spirit is recognised by its effect through us who believe in God and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. So we are obliged to be witnesses of the Holy Spirit to others around us through our own action, words and behavior.

Congratulations for those who received the sacrament and well done for preparation of the liturgy including good performance of 2 alter boys and 2 very cute alter girls.

Nov 14, 2009

Beginning of the end of the Daiwa Usagi.

This Usagi (Rabbit) dancing team has become a common sight in Niigata to prepare for Christmas. They always appear around this time of the year in a store window of DAIWA department store in Furumachi, Niigata. Of course, these rabbits are not real but mechanical toys. They dance to the typical Christmas songs such as "Jingle Bell" or "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. " Boy, these rabbits are cute. You can expect to witness a mother enjoying songs and dancing of them with her little kid in front of the store window during the day time or a gentleman who got tipsy dancing with them by night. They dance 24 hours a day triggered by a human motion detector. A high-tech machine!

However, it would be the last winter for these rabbits to dance in Niigata since their home, the Daiwa department store would be closed down next June. Because of poor business performance in Niigata prefecture where they have 3 stores, Daiwa department store from Kanazawa decided to close all these 3 stores in Niigata. That means we are losing our favorite rabbits. I will miss them for sure.

Tomorrow, there will be a confirmation Mass in Terao Parish in Niigata at 9:30 am.

Nov 8, 2009

Catholic Teachers' workshop in Sendai

Last week on Friday and Saturday, the 24th workshop for Catholic Teachers in TOHOKU area was held in SHIRAYURI High School in Sedani. All together 130 teachers from 11 Catholic Schools in the 7 prefectures which has been divided into 2 dioceses, Sendai and Niigata, attended the two-day workshop on the theme " Pass the Catholic spirit to Our Students". As the head of dioceses, Bishop Hiraga of Sendai and I participated the workshop while Bishop Mizobe of Takamatsu was invited as a main speaker on the theme.

Out of 11 schools, we have 2 of them in Niigata diocese, Seirei in Akita and Seishin in Niigata. Though the majority of the participants were from Shirayuri High, the host school, each school had sent 5 to 6 teachers including several head teachers to the workshop knowing maintaining the Catholic identity in their school is crucial factor for their future survival as Catholic schools. First and most, number of kids are decreasing in Japan drastically. Then vocation crisis in most of the religious orders resulting decreasing number of the religious presence in these Catholic schools. For instance, not only Sisters are no more teaching or working in Seishin High Shool in Niigata, even the administration of the school has been handed over to the secular corporation. I have been granting permission to the school to be called the Catholic since I am in the board and the administration had promised to maintain Catholic identity in the school including maintaining regular religion classes.

The workshop started with several open classes followed by the talk by Bishop Mizobe. I attended the Religious Music Class for Senior High 3rd grade students. The class was preparation for Hallelujah Chorus during the Christmas celebration for which entire student body of the Shirayuri participates. Photo above is from the class.

Second day was dedicated for small group discussion and closing Mass said by Bishop Hiraga while I preached a sermon. They will meet for yet another workshop in 2 years time in Hachinohe.

Nov 3, 2009

St.Damien de Veuster, SS.CC.

Thanks giving Mass for canonization of St.Damien de Veuster, SS.CC., was held in SAGAE, Yamagata at 10:30 am today. Fathers of the SS.CC., Society of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, are in charge of mission in Yamagata district in my diocese. St.Damien is well known to many as the leper priest of Molokai. He has been canonized on 11 October this year in Vatican.

More than 250 people came to attend the Mass. After the Mass, Fr. Donegan gave a talk on the life history of St.Damien. Also minor seminarians of Salesians from Yokohama performed a play on the life of St.Damien in Molokai. The seminarians did very well. Then members of Shinjo gave vote of thanks to everyone for their help to build their church in Shinjo. As I have mentioned this several times, there are number of Filipino mothers residing in my diocese and there are more than 100 of them in Shinjo. Together with their kids and sometimes with their husbands who are not Christians in most cases, they have been meeting in several places for Sunday Mass. With support of members of this diocese, we are trying to build their own church in Shinjo. At this moment, we are very close to reach the goal. Let us pray hard so that Almighty Father will give us more help to realise our dream. (Photo above; together with one of the members of Yamagata who gave a interesting performance. Behind us are Filipino mothers preparing for their turn)

During the party, Kawasaki DARC members gave a performance of traditional Okinawa dance and drumming. Then there were several good performances by Filipino members, both mothers and kids, from Shinjo and Yamagata, singing by members of various parishes in Yamagata and, finally to conclude, traditional Hanagasa dance by everyone.

Congratulations for members of the SS.CC. and thank you everyone to join the celebration.

Nov 2, 2009

I've just turned 51

November 1st is my birthday and I have just turned 51 yesterday. I have been receiving quite a number of e-mails on my birthday. Thank you so much for your kind words and prayers. I ask you to continue to remember me and my diocese, Niigata in your prayer.

Photo above is from Akita on the day of confirmation with 12 who received the sacrament and their sponsor.

There will be a Thanksgiving Mass for the Canonization of St.Damian, a missionary of Molokai and a member of the SS.CC., in Yamagata tomorrow. So I am leaving for Yamagata this afternoon. The SS.CC. (The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary) missionaries are working in Yamagata district. Congratulations for SS.CC. confreres.