Jan 30, 2010

2010 Pastoral Letter in English

My pastoral letter for 2010 has been published on 1st January in Japanese which you may find a copy in parishes in the diocese of Niigata.  Finally, the English translation was completed by the committee for itinerant people.  You may reach the letter titled "Send Labours to His Harvest" in English by clicking the following link in the web page of the diocese.

Photo above is from the study session on HIV/AIDS organised by Caritas Japan last night in Tokyo.  Around 20 people joined the session in which the volunteer staff of the NPO, "Japan HIV Center", conducted a workshop on YYSP, Young for Young Sharing Program.  The program is meant for junior high and high school students to learn more about the reality of HIV/ AIDS.   Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan, CBCJ, has recognized the issue as one of the most crucial topics to be tackled by the modern Church in Japan which always preach about the dignity of human life.  CBCJ has established the HIV/AIDS Desk to deal with the issue and entrusted it to Caritas Japan.  At this moment, the desk is concentrating to organise a study session like one of last night meant for Catholic School teachers so that through the school education we may widen the knowledge among Japanese youth.

Jan 29, 2010

Sapporo, Snow, Samui

As the Apostolic Administrator, I should stay within Sapporo diocese at least once a month for a few days, though there is no such directives from above.  Usually, those priests residing in and around Sapporo city area meet on Mondays of the last week of each month.  So I have been to Sapporo for 4 days from Sunday evening to Wednesday to join the gathering of priests in Hanakawa, Ishikari city, where Sisters of St.Francis of the Martyr St.George has their house and a retreat facility.  Within the same compound, Sisters also run  a university, Fuji Women's' University which is known as the Alma mater of a singer, Miyuki Nakajima.  This time, the meeting was an occasion for sharing of  information and also for studying.  Fr.Hamada, OFM, a cannon lawyer, was invited as a guest speaker so that we may learn more about the Church's regulation on Sacrament of Marriage.   The cannon law has been revised in 1983 and since then several new revisions have been made.  So it was a good occasion also for me to revisit several important points on marriage.

Sapporo area and Hokkaido itself was blanketed by deep snow.  It was very cold.  After the meeting, in the evening on Monday, in spite of heavy snow, we went out to the Tsubohachi restaurant for a dinner.  Though the Tsubohachi is a well-known nation wide chain of casual drinking restaurant, I have never seen such a huge one like this which used to be a supermarket, I heard. 

Sapporo is preparing for the Snow Festival in February.  It is only a 20-minute walk to reach the site of the festival.  Photo above is the one of these snow exhibitions under preparation.  Sapporo is very Samui (cold).

Jan 22, 2010

Prayer Service for Christian Unity

Catholic Church in Japan and Christian Churches of other denominations are organising a week of prayer for Christian Unity, starting from 18 January till 25. "You are witnesses of these things (Luke 24:48)" is the theme for this year. On Wednesday, I joined the prayer service in Terao Catholic Church. More than 30 people joined the service presided by Fr. Machida, the parish priest of Terao. Number of ministers from other denominations in Niigata also joined the service. As I mentioned before, there used to be a daily evening prayer service through out the week until 2 years ago in Niigata. However the reality of the aging society in this area forced us to change the style to organise 4 services during the day. It also means that only retired senior members are able to join the service which is scheduled at 10:30 am. Probably that is one of many reasons of decline of attendance to these services, especially among other denominations.

This morning I joined the prayer service in St. Paul Anglican Church. Again there was around 30 people in the Church today. Majority of those joined the service were members of the Anglican Church. It was the same for Terao on Wednesday. Majority of those joined in Terao were members of there. Though I may have to see the attendance of the Sunday service which supposed to be the main celebration of this year's Christian Unity week, we may have to think and review about the activities of the week seriously for next year. (Photo above:The service in Terao)

As you know well, Haiti was severely hit by a violent earthquake on 12 January and we still do not know the exact impact and damage caused. The Archbishop of the capital Port-au-Prince was also killed and his Cathedral was reduced to dust. Still many people are under the rubble. We have to remember the victims in our prayer. Caritas Japan has started fund-raising campaign and decided to join the rehabilitation project of Caritas Internationalis. Your donation to Caritas Japan will be highly appreciated. Please refer to the Home Page of Caritas Japan for details. Also you may refer to the blog of Caritas Internationalis to know the up-to-date information of Haiti rescue operation. Caritas Internationalis' blog is in English.

Jan 19, 2010

New Bishop for Ghana.

One of my former colleagues of SVD mission in Ghana has been promoted to be a bishop. Holy Father elevated the Apostolic Prefecture of Donkorkrom, Ghana to the Apostolic Vicariate this afternoon and appointed Most Rev. Fr.Gabriel Kumordji, SVD, the prefect as a new vicar apostolic promoting him as a bishop. Congratulations for your new appointment, Bishop Kumordji! (Photo above; Bishop-elect Kumordji and myself in Osonson, Ghana in 2006)

The Vicariate is in the Eastern Region of Ghana with 17,000 Catholics out of population of 160,000. Town of Donkorkrom is in the area called "Afram Plains" which is a kind of peninsula without proper access road over land. The area had been isolated from the rest of Ghana by man made lake, lake Volta of Akosombo dam and reachable by ferry boats. Afram Plains used to be a part of Koforidua diocese where my former station, Osonson belongs to.

Jan 15, 2010

St.Arnold Janssen, SVD

Today, 15th January, is a feast day of St.Arnold Janssen who established a congregation I belong to, the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). He was a diocesan priest and a high school teacher in Germany. Though he was enjoying his apostolate as a teacher, he also developed his interest for supporting foreign mission activities. He tried to find someone who was interested to establish a mission seminary in Germany in vain. Finally, after receiving an advice from Bishop of Hong Kong, he decided to do so by himself. In 1875, he managed to purchase a house in Holland in a town called Style since such a new venture for Catholic Church was not allowed by the German government at that time. That was the beginning of the St.Michael's Mission Seminary and the Society of the Divine Word with only 4 members. In 1879, he already managed to send 2 missionaries to China. Japan received the SVD missionaries in 1907 just a few years before the death of the founder on 15 January, 1909. Japan was the last mission destination chosen by the founder himself. St.Arnold also founded the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters (SSpS) and the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters. In Japan, SVD is known for their education apostolate especially by Nanzan Schools in Nagoya and Nagasaki. But SVD is, first and most, a religious society of missionaries for the primary evengelisation so that each member, whether one is working for a school or a parish or whatever place, has to have a spirit of a missionary who is ready to abandon one's own culture and language for the sake of evangelisation. I am glad to be a member of this Society otherwise I never had any chance to be a missionary in Ghana for 8 years immediately after my ordination. Please remember missionaries of the Church in your prayer today.

Catholic Church in Japan and Christian Churches of other denominations are organising a week of prayer for Christian Unity, starting from 18 January till 25. "You are witnesses of these things (Luke 24:48)" is the theme for this year. A booklet has been prepared by the CBCJ and the NCC. Each diocese or district has their own programme for the week. In Niigata city, since late Bishop Itoh was in charge of the committee for Ecumenism of the CBCJ for many years, there have been a good collaboration among Christian Churches and Catholics for many years. There used to be a daily evening prayer service through out the week until recently in Niigata. However the reality of the aging society in this area forced us to change the style. So as for this year's week, we are going to have 4 prayer services during the week in day time.

  • On 18, Monday at 10:30 am at Niigata Salvation Army.
  • On 20, Wednesday at 10:30 am at Terao Catholic Church.
  • On 22, Friday at 10:30 am at St. Paul Anglican Church.
  • On 24, Sunday at 2 pm at Nihon Kirisuto Kyodan Niigata Church (on Eisho street)

You are all invited to join the prayer.

Jan 8, 2010

Two funerals

The past few days, I attended two funerals, one for Cardinal Shirayanagi in Tokyo Cathedral on 5th and the other for a 91-year-old Mother of Fr. Kenji Honma in Tsuruoka Catholic Church on 7th.

According to the estimation I heard, more than 2000 people attended the Cardinal's funeral including 200 or more priests. Japanese bishops who managed to travel to Tokyo in spite of the heavy traffic of people returning home from the New Year holiday concerebrated the Mass which was presided by Archbishop Okada of Tokyo together with Bishop Tong of Hong Kong and an auxiliary bishop from Cologne diocese. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, the president of the Rissho Koseikai and the president of the WCRP (World Conference of Religions for Peace) delivered a moving eulogy after the Mass. Late cardinal was known as a man of action for world peace and had been a president of the WCRP for quite sometime. At the end of the funeral, all the bishops stood around the late cardinal's coffin to sing "Salve Regina" to bid farewell to this great man.

A funeral for the late mother of Fr.Honma, a parish priest of Yamagata, was smaller in attendance to compare with the one of the cardinal but very moving. Since Fr. Honma is a member of the Picpus Fathers, most of their confereres in Japan joined the Mass together with Fr.Iino and Nagayama from Akita and Fr.Sakamoto from Niigata. The Church building of Tsuruoka which has been designated as an important cultural property by the government is small and narrow. Church was filled and packed by more than 150 people. Fr.Honma himself was baptised while he was working as a police officer in Yamagata in his 20's. Later, his mother was also baptised in Tsuruoka when she was 60 years old. According to the eulogy by one of her friends, soon after the baptism, she became very active and important member of the Church Choir of Tsuruoka. Also she gave a good influence over her husband's spiritual life so that late Father of Fr.Honma was also baptized just before his death a few years ago.

When I left Niigata for Tsruoka, it was raining miserably and cold. However, when I arrived at Tsuruoka, weather completely betrayed the forecast. It was warm and fine day. Quite a blessing for those who attended the funeral. (Photo above. Tsuruoka Church on the day of the funeral)

Jan 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

May the year 2010 be filled with blessings from the Almighty Father, and your heart, with His love

We, the Church, is celebrating the "Year of Priests" at this moment. I ask all of you to pray for priests in your diocese including Bishops. With your prayer and spiritual support, priests may be able to stand on the firm foundation for their daily ministries. Your prayer is the key for good pastoral care by priests. Also kindly pray for the vocation and appointment of new Bishop for Sapporo diocese. Prayer is important for the selection process of new bishops.

Weather over the end of 2009 and beginning of the 2010 was quite terrible in Niigata area. Though we did not have so much snow in Niigata city itself, since yesterday strong and cold wind has been discouraging people to go out. Also public transportation has been disrupted. Despite of this bad weather, more than 30 people attended the midnight Mass in Niigata Cathedral to begin the new year with prayer. Also this morning, more than 80 people including a couple of guests from Singapore attended the 11 am Mass.

I have issued a 2010 New Year's Pastoral Letter today and you may get a copy of it, though only in English at this moment, from your local parishes. The title of the letter is "Workers for the Harvesting" which obviously talking about the vocation. Also I mentioned about several other issues so that I hope you may be able to get a copy of it. If you can try to read it in Japanese, please click the link here. (Photo above is from my last trip to Bangladesh)