May 31, 2014

Annual pilgrimage to AKITA

After my return from Amman, Jordan for Caritas Internationalis Representative Council which took us even to Jerusalem for a brief pilgrimage, I joined a group of 14 from Niigata for yet another pilgrimage to AKITA.

Though AKITA is in my diocese, Niigata, it takes at least 5 hours drive or 3 and half hours train ride to reach there from Niigata city (Photo above: a new express train between Niigata and AKita). This pilgrimage is an annual event for a Rosary group called GETUYO-KAI in Niigata which literally means "Monday Group" as they meet once a month on Mondays in Cathedral. I usually celebrate Mass for them and join their Rosary recitation.

The group was founded by late Bishop Shojiro ITO, the first Bishop of Niigata with faithfuls who witnessed miraculous incidents with a wooden statue of Holy Mother shed tears for 101 times 30 years ago in AKITA.  Bishop ITO himself also witnessed the incidents and in 1984 in his Easter Pastoral Letter, he recognised the incidents as miraculous and also the message given to a Sister authentic, and gave permission to organize pilgrimage to the site. The site is now called Marian Shrine of Akita in Seitai Hoshi kai (Handmaids of Holy Eucharist). Seitai Hoshi Kai is a secular institute of consecrated life established by Bishop Ito prior to the miraculous incident.  Official stance of Niigata Diocese to the Marian Shrine in Akita has never changed since Bishop Ito's time and everyone is free and welcome to organize pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine in Seitai Hoshi Kai in Akita.

Last year in October, Niigata Diocese was invited by Rome Diocese to join the Marian Day for the Year of Faith and organised a vigil prayer service in Akita with other Marian Shrines in the world. It was televised live through Italian TV station.

So after I arrived at Narita Airport on 21 May morning, I proceeded to Sendai to join the support meeting for rehabilitation program by Sendai diocese for 2011 disaster victims. Unfortunately I just missed the meeting. I was late. Then I proceeded to Akita to wait for a group from Niigata (Photo above: Pilgrimage to Bethlehem and Jerusalem).

22 May was rainy day but the group from Niigata arrived in good spirit. The group was joined by another Rosary group from Niigata and we had a joint Mass in the afternoon.

Following morning was a fine day and we could manage to organise the Stations of the Cross in a beautiful garden of the convent of Seitai Hoshi Kai.

The Marian Shrine itself is very important for Niigata Diocese as spiritual foundation but also the convent of Seitai Hoshi Kai is and has been providing wonderful environment of prayer and meditation for us. Of course, members of the institute are praying for the diocese every day. Though diocese of Niigata is a small diocese with only 7,000 Catholics, we have to maximise our efforts for evangelisation in this area with more than 4.5 million people. For this we need spiritual support. Seitai Hoshi Kai provides good facilities for our spiritual renewal and we should utilise them. Also we have another good facility in south. Myoko Church facilities provides us also a good environment to pray and meditate. Both places are precious gifts for our spiritual enrichment in the diocese. Also we should not forget Sisters in the diocese, especially the Poor Clares in Takada and Seitai Hoshi Kai who have been supporting our diocesan activities through their continuous prayers.

Oh, I happen to visit both places, Seitai Hoshi Kai and Myoko in coming Sundays. 1st June, there will be Nagaoka District Laity Assembly in Myoko and 8 June is the Akita District Laity Assembly in Seitai Hoshi Kai.


  1. hello excellency i want to ask you,all the messages that recieve sister agnes sasagawa fron our lady are globally know in japan? is sister still alive? thank you

    1. Sr.Sasagawa is still fine and strong. She stays with one of Seitihoshikai member.