Oct 31, 2011

Pilgrimage to Lourdes

I have just returned from 10 days pilgrimage with 69 people to France and Italy from 18 to 28 October organised by Niigata diocese.  It was to commemorate 100th anniversary of the diocese, which had been established in 1912 as an Apostolic Vicariate and in 1962 as a diocese, and also as thanksgiving for my Silver jubilee of priestly ordination.  We also wanted to show our gratitude to Holy Father for his donation and prayer for victims of March 11 disaster.

Our first stop was Lourdes for 2 days.  I wanted to visit Lourdes by all means since my first assignment in Ghana was a priest in charge of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Osonson, Krobo in present Koforidua diocese in 1987. Oosonson has its own Grotto and the parish was the pilgrimage site for faithful of Krobo deanery.  Every December, Osonson organises December 8 Marian pilgrimage for 3 days which attracts thousands of people to Osonson.  So I wanted to visit the "real" grotto in Lourdes.

On our first day, it was raining and very cold.  But because of this rather unfortunate weather, not so many pilgrims were there in front of the Grotto.  So our people did not have to wait too long to take a bath and were able to stay long within the Grotto to pray. 

We were allowed to celebrate Holy Eucharist in the Crypt on first day.  I was joined by 2 priests, Fr. Ohtaki of Niigata and Fr. Hayakawa of Nagoya.  I shared my story with Holy Mother that how she had tried to keep me in close contact with her despite my rather unwillingness to be close with her.  As a minor seminarian, I was always quite reluctant to return to seminary after classes to join Rosary prayer time before sports activities.  My attitude did not change much as major seminarian.  I have to confess that I was not so serious about reciting Rosary as such.  Then, for my great surprise, I was appointed as a priest in charge of a parish with famous grotto of the area and strong group of Legion of Mary and Rosary Crusade.  After 7 years in the parish, I returned to Japan and again a Rosary prayer group asked me to be their chaplain saying that they were praying for priest vocation.  As one in seminary formation, I could not say no to be their chaplain.  Then after some years, I was appointed as a Bishop of the diocese which includes Akita where miraculous events happened in 70's with a Marian Statue.  So Holy Mother is always trying to keep me in the place where I can not ignore praying Rosary.

Lourdes was a silent and holy place with a lot of natural beauty.  I hope I may be able to visit Lourdes again and stay for a bit longer than this time.    

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