Nov 30, 2010

Chapel renovation in Yamagata completed

The parish chapel of Yamagata has been under renovation for past few months and the construction work has been completed by the end of October.  So the re-dedication Mass of the Parish Chapel was celebrated on 28 November, the first Sunday of Advent, which was attended by more than 100 parishioners including those members from Shinjo.  Entire flooring, ceiling and wall have been refurbished and a new stained glass window has been added behind the alter, above the crucifix.  Also in order to make the building earthquake resistant, several windows have been removed so that walls would be able to withstand powerful quakes.  A slope way has been added at the entrance of the chapel so that wheel chairs could easily enter the place of worship and prayer. Parish priest, Fr. Honma and the parish council members went through hard time to negotiate with parishioners on several issues on the renovation planning.  I do appreciate their tireless effort to involve everyone in the parish community.  Ayekoo (GOKURO-SAMA, or good job in Ghana local language). 

After the Mass on Sunday, a celebration get-together was held in the parish hall.  Almost half of the participants were our Filipino members who brought their famous Filipino foods for sharing.  I really enjoyed its international atmosphere of the Yamagata Parish community.  I hope that the renovated chapel would be the foundation of the active community life so that the Church community of Yamagata would be the symbol of unity and communion among the society which is in need of clear direction for the better life.  Many people are at a loss of clear direction of their own life and present society which does not give due respect to human lives can not provide bright and clear vision for the future.

Nov 25, 2010

The 16th Korea-Japan Bishops Exchange meeting

The 16th Korea-Japan Bishops Exchange meeting was held in Cheongju in Korea from 16 to 18 November.  All together 13 Bishops from Japan and 17 Bishops from Korea participated in the program.  This year, our main theme of the program was suicide which has been one of the major social problem in both Japan and Korea recently.  As for Japan, since 1998 more than thirty thousand people commit suicide every year because of various reasons.  My diocese, Niigata, has the highest rate of suicide among elderly people.  Since Caritas Japan has been tackling with this problem in Japan, Bishop Koda who is in charge of the social enlightenment program of Caritas Japan gave a talk on the topic of "Suicide and pastoral response of the Church in Japan."  Dr. Hong Kang-eui from Korea gave a talk on the topic of "Present state of suicide in Korea and policy directions."

Caritas Japan has just published a booklet on this issue based on the survey in several Catholic communities in Japan.  This booklet in Japanese is available free of charge from Caritas Japan office in Tokyo.

It seems that the Catholic Church in Korea has been receiving quite a number of new episcopal appointments in past few years so that there were number of new faces among participants.  There are 16 dioceses in Japan.  Korea also have the same number of the diocese including the military ordinary but the total number of bishops are much more than Japan since there are several auxiliaries.  Whenever I visit the Catholic Church in Korea, I really feel overwhelmed by their size and power.  According to the statics, there are more than 4 million Catholic in South Korea which is around 9% of the population while there are around half a million Catholics in Japan which is far less than 1% of the population.  There are around 700 priests in the Seoul archdiocese while I have less than 20 priests in my diocese.      

Nov 14, 2010

Caritas Diocesan directors met in Hiroshima

Caritas Japan has organised an annual diocesan directors meeting from 9 to 11 November in Hiroshima.  Though the respective dioceses have quite different type of Caritas organisations, majority of the directors from 16 Catholic dioceses in Japan got together in the diocesan administration office in Hiroshima.  As these directors have been appointed by their own bishops for charitable activities or welfare activities in their dioceses and not directly for the national organisation, Caritas Japan have to coordinate with the diocesan directors at least once a year to ask their assistance especially in fund raising activities.  Without assistance from them, Caritas Japan is unable to organise fund raising as we have been doing.

It was my second time to visit Hiroshima.  Since I did not have enough time to visit the A-bomb memorial last time, I wanted to make sure to take time to visit the memorial.  I have been to Nagasaki memorial several times but Hiroshima memorial also had quite an impact on me.  We human beings should utilise our wisdom which has been granted by God to avoid such misery of our own making.  (Photo above:  Hiroshima Peace memorial Chapel with a statue of JPII who visited Hiroshima in 1981)

Seoul Pax Forum

I was honored to be invited as a keynote speaker for the 2010 Seoul Pax Forum organised by the Catholic Education Foundation and the Catholic University of Korea on 5 November in Seoul.  The Foundation was established in 1994 with the sponsorship of the Seoul Archdiocese and is currently administering several schools in Seoul Archdiocese including the Catholic University of Korea.  The venue of the forum was the St. Mary's Hospital which is also under the administration of the Foundation.  This is the second forum organised by the Foundation with the theme, "Solidarity for Asian Peace".  It was my first experience to give a talk outside Japan and also in completely prepared English text.  Because of the translation and publication of a booklet, the text had been prepared beforehand and was sent to the organising committee so that what I had to do was to just read through the text.  I spoke on the very basics of the Human Development from the view point of Catholic Church as a president of Caritas Japan.  I do believe the concept of Human Development has common value with the Gospel message and Caritas organisation of the Catholic Church could be the best tool to implement this concept since the Caritas organisation is both global and local at the same time.  Caritas organisation is always with people in grassroots level since the organisation completely rely on the local Church structure.  Where there is a Catholic Church, then there is Caritas.

I am grateful to the organizer of the forum to invite me to share my thoughts on development and also share our experience, for Caritas Japan,  to be a part of peace building and development in Asia.