Oct 31, 2010

This is the day, for Shinjo.

A Catholic community in Shinjo in Yamagata prefecture has finally acquired their own place of worship on Thursday, 28 October.  It took more than 9 years to make their dream come true.  According to the sharing by one of their leading members, when she had arrived in Shinjo area 22 years ago, she could find everything she needed for her life except a place of worship.  In the year 2001, Fr. Honma, then a parish priest of Tsuruoka decided to travel to Shinjo to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in a public facility and asked her to invite her friends to come for the Mass.  She went around the town to find her friends even during the shopping in a local supermarket.  When I first visited their community in 2005, I was actually surprised to know that so many of them were there.  The majority of the Catholic community in Shinjo are from Philippines.  In 80's and 90's, the local government invited Filipinos, Chinese and Korean ladies to come to Japan to be wives of local Japanese farmers.  In 2007, when I made yet another visit to the community, I asked them to count the actual number of Filipinos in the area and we found out that there are more than 100 residing.  They are not only wives but also mothers of many kids who had been baptised.  During that visit, the community expressed their desire to build their own Church.  I was skeptical.  The community did not have enough fund in their coffers.  There were, and even now, only 2 local Japanese members in the community of Shinjo.  So when they asked me about building their Church, I said "yes" but, in fact, I thought it would be just a dream.

But God has his own plan and he provided us everything what we needed.  In my 2009 pastoral letter, I asked the entire diocese to consider to support the Shinjo so that we might be able to build a Church by 2012 when the Niigata diocese celebrates its 100th anniversary.  But an abandoned private kindergarten building and its land was put on sale last year and the information was brought to the diocese by Fr. Honma, the parish priest of Yamagata and in charge of Shinjo.  Still I was in doubt since we did not have enough contribution at that time and the Niigata diocese is not so financially well-off with only 7,000 Catholics.  However, God has his own plan to be realised.  In my surprise, so many people and parish communities,including several individuals from other dioceses, made significant contributions and early this year, we managed to purchase the property.  Thank God.  It took 6 moths to refurbish the building to make a kindergarten to a church.  A significant contributions also made us able to purchase a wonderful set of stained glasses.

As Catholic Church in Japan does not have sufficient outposts in rural villages, the presence of so many Filipinos in the villages as wives and mothers are quite crucial for the evengelisation in Japan.  In fact, as I have been telling them, they are missionaries sent to Japan to be witness of the Word of God despite their different reasons to be in Japan.  God has his own plan to proclaim his good news in Japan.

Thank you for the effort made by the Shinjo community and support from other Catholic communities in the Niigata diocese.  I also thank all other people outside the diocese who has been supporting the Catholics in Shinjo.  Now is the time for the members in Shinjo, with 2 Japanese, many Filipinos and many more kids, to consider the Church as their "base" of the life and make long-term plan to maintain the building and develop the community.  We are always with you.  

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