Dec 29, 2011

Otsuchi volunteer base completed

On 13 December, more than 60 people including 3 bishops, Bishop Hiraga of Sendai, Bishop Hamaguchi of Oita and myself, and more than 10 priests gathered together in a former business hotel in town of Otsuchi in Iwate prefecture to celebrate opening of a volunteer base for Nagasaki ecclesiastical province.  Bishop Hamaguchi, who is the one in charge of volunteer operation of Nagasaki ecclesiastical province, was a main celebrant of the dedication Mass of the volunteer base which used to be a business hotel owned by a Catholic from Morioka city.  On 11 March, town of Otsuchi was one of so many coastal communities which were hit by massive Tsunami.  The town lost more than 800 people including their town mayor and still more than 500 people are missing. 

The business hotel was also hit by tsunami and, though first and second floor were submerged into water, building structure remained intact.  So it was used by volunteers from nearby Kamaishi Catholic Church as center of activities immediately after the disaster.  Then when Japanese bishops decided to ask Nagasaki ecclesiastical province with 5 dioceses to concentrate their relief activities in central and north coastal area of Iwate, the owner of the hotel, Mr. Michimata, offered the building to be used by the Nagasaki team as their base of activities. 

Archbishop Takami of Nagasaki appointed Fr. Furuki, SDB, who had been an assistant secretary general of Nagasaki diocese to be in charge of the project to rehabilitate the hotel and make it ready to be a base of volunteer activities.  It took longer than usual since it was quite difficult to find professional assistance to rehabilitate the building as contractors are busy helping victims.

The base is now standing out of no-where.  It used to be surrounded by many buildings but today it is standing almost alone.  Fr. Furuki wrote once in his report that when evening comes the base stands in darkness as torch light of hope since it is only a very few building with light at this moment.

I joined the dedication Mass with Mr. Tadokoro, the director general of Caritas Japan.  Caritas Japan is fully supporting the project and will continue to be with volunteers of Otsuchi base.

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