Jan 8, 2014

Happy New Year

My dear brothers and sisters, I wish you Happy New Year! May God bless you and your family, relatives and friends so that your words and deeds in the Year 2014 may be real witnesses of the Gospel message.

I have written a new year's pastoral letter but it is still in Japanese only. English translation may be available soon. Meanwhile, you may try to read it in Japanese in this link.

In Niigata Diocese on the New Year's Day, two Parish communities became one in Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture. There used to be two parish communities in Nagaoka city, the second largest city in Niigata prefecture, namely Omotemachi and Fukuzumi. After more than two years of deliberations among parish councils of both communities and with entire Parish members, Niigata diocese decided to amalgamate two and make Omotemachi as the new center for the new parish in Nagaoka city.

This decision was prompted by the request from Franciscans (OFM) who had been in charge of the pastoral care of Nagaoka district for more than 50 years to withdraw their members from these two parishes because of aging and declining membership of the order. Then Provincial of the Franciscans approached me a few years back while one of their Fathers were still in charge of these two parishes.

I did not know what to do since I had just enough diocesan priests, all together 15 of them, to maintain parishes in two districts and I did not have any more priests to send to yet another district. Fortunately the Divine Word Missionaries, SVD, was generous enough to send their priests to make up for the vacancy. In fact, one of these parish communities in Nagaoka, Fukuzumi Church was started by SVDs in 1929. Well, at that time, entire diocese was under the pastoral care of  SVD. Then after the WWII, Franciscans were asked to take over the Nagaoka district from SVD with 8 communities. In 1963, Omotemachi was established as the district house for Franciscans and later promoted to be an independent parish community. So this could be said as the "Return of SVD in Nagaoka". I just hope and wish the SVD will continue to consider Nagaoka Church as one of their mission options in Japan for next few more years.

Between these two parishes, there are JR rail lines which separate the city to east side and west side. Fukuzumi is in the east side and Omotemachi for the west. Distance between these two parishes are only 1 km. It was almost impossible to maintain two communities with two separate church buildings with quite a small number of the memberships. Both communities have less than 100 attendance of Sunday liturgies at best and will be impossible to make enough contributions to maintain both parishes since majority are quite advanced in their age.

The diocese have tried a long time ago to discuss the possibility to amalgamate two communities in the past but failed to come to the consensus.  This time, reality of departure of Franciscan Fathers prompted both communities to take time to discern their respective future vision.

I really thank entire members of two communities, and especially lay leaders of them, to take enough time to listen carefully opinions of every members on the future of their communities and came out with positive answer to amalgamate two and make complete new community.

On 5 January, I presided over the Thanksgiving Mass with their parish priest, Fr. Kamimura, SVD, and the associate, Fr. Lorenzo, SVD, to ask God for his blessings and guidance over the new community in Nagaoka. (N.B. Sunday Mass in Nagaoka Catholic Church is at 9:30am and 6pm.)


No comments:

Post a Comment