Nov 13, 2012

Pastoral visits @ Naoetsu, Myoko & Itoigawa

Autumn is a season for pastoral visits of parishes in Niigata Diocese.  So I made two pastoral visits on Sunday, 4 November and another one on 11 in Nagaoka district which is in south of Niigata prefecture.

First on 4 November at 9:30 am in Naoetsu. Parishioners gathered together in front of the city crematory.  I do not know what images you have on "crematory" but the photo above is the one in Naoetsu and this is a typical crematory in Japan.  You do not find any chimney and it looks like a museum or hotel.  In Japan, one can not avoid cremation on transition from this world to eternity.  It will be quite difficult to find any cemeteries in Japan which accept actual burial of a body.  In most cases, a tomb is owned by a family and it has space enough to contain ashes. 
Well, across the street from the crematory is the Parish Cemetery of Naoetsu Parish and that is why parishioners had been gathering in front of the crematory. Every year in the first Sunday of November, number of parishes in our diocese organises the cemetery Mass to pray for their beloved departed souls.  The parish priest, Fr. Hubert Nelskamp,OFM, celebrated Mass with me.  After the Mass, we returned to the Parish for lunch together.

After the lunch, I traveled with Fr. Hubert to visit Myoko Church, an out-station of Takada parish.  Fr. Hubert is also taking care of Takada parish at this moment with 2 other elderly priests assisting him for Mass duties.  Myoko Church is in a mountainside of Mt. Myoko. Myoko area is beautiful place and the station has a lovely chapel which looks like a mountain cabin. Also they have a cottage which is able to accommodate around 50 people. The cottage used to belong to a major bank corporation.  Any Catholics not only in Niigata diocese but from all over Japan are welcome to use this wonderful facility of Myoko cottage.   Contact Takada parish for information.  Moreover, this cottage has natural Onsen, a hot spring bath, attached in it. You have to enjoy it.
On 11 November, I drove around 3 hours to reach the southern end of my diocese, Itoigawa city.  There Fr. Bruno Fabbri, OFM, was waiting for me to visit his flock in Itoigawa.  I could find number of faces from Philippines among the congregation. 

Fr. Bruno arranged a kind of forum after the Mass to let parishioners to ask any questions to Bishop. After some typical questions, such as what would be the answer for aging population and diminishing number of youths in parishes in the diocese, or what would be the best way to strengthen community spirit, etc., one lady stood up to share her own story.  She was an only Catholic in her family.  Typical situation in Japan.  Her husband never showed any interest to Christianity and their children are rather hostile against to any religious practices.  So she was lamenting her inability to contribute to the Evangelisation effort of the Church and asked me what to do.
I just wondered what to say to her since this is not the only case in Catholic community in Japan and many are feeling kind of guilty conscience of not able to produce much fruits of the Evangelisation in their family.  What to say?  Then the situation of migrant Catholics, especially those ladies from other countries who had been married with Japanese farmers in my diocese came to my mind.  I have been telling these migrant Catholics that they had been sent by God as missionaries of modern times to penetrate deep into Japanese traditional family system with Gospel values behind them.  So it must be the same case with these Japanese Catholics who are feeling alone in their families.  They do not have to be ashamed of not doing anything for the Evangelisation because without their very existence in their families, these family members, husbands or wives and kids, never ever had any chance to encounter with Christianity. Whether these family members take positive or negative attitude toward Christianity, at least they had a chance to know about it through these lone Catholics in families.  What a great contribution to the Evangelisation.  What a deep mystery of God's providence. 
After the forum, we had lunch together and I enjoyed both Japanese and Filipino foods.  Thank you everyone in Naoetsu, Myoko and Itoigawa for wonderful hospitality to be with your Bishop.   

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