Dec 31, 2009

Cardinal Shirayanagi passed away

Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, Archbishop emeritus of Tokyo, passed away yesterday morning in Tokyo at the age of 81. He had suffered from heart problem and other complications in August and hospitalised since then. We all remember him for his very powerful and moving homily in Nagasaki during the Beatification Mass of 188 Japanese martyrs in November last year. Funeral Mass will take place in St.Mary's Cathedral of Tokyo at 11 am on 5 January. May he rest in perfect Peace.

Today is the last day of the year 2009. Quite a number of people, despite cold and wild winter weather, make effort to visit Shrines to thank god for past year and ask for blessing and good fortune for new year. Visiting shrine during the end and beginning of the year has been a tradition of Japanese society. Catholic Church, too, has special Mass for this period of the year. There will be a midnight Mass this evening in many Churches in Japan. In Niigata Cathedral, I will preside over the Mass for the World Day of Peace. The Mass will begin at 12 midnight. Then there will be another Mass at 11 am in Niigata Cathedral for the feast day of Mary Mother of God. You are welcome to join the Mass to thank God for the past year and ask for blessing.

Dec 27, 2009

International Christmas in Niigata

On the Christmas day at 2 pm in Niigata Cathedral, English Mass was celebrated especially for non Japanese speaking Catholics. Though majority of them were from Philippines, there were much more nationalities among those who joined the celebration. Also number of them came with their families. There are many cases of international marriage with Japanese in this area. The usual English Mass in Niigata Cathedral is scheduled for first Sunday of every month which has been attended by more than 50 people regularly. Unfortunately 25 December is a working day in Japan and the attendance for the Christmas Mass was not so much. However, those who managed to join the celebration got together at the Parish Hall after the Mass for a party.

The party which was attended by around 30 people, both Japanese members of the Parish and English Mass community members together with their families, was well organised by themselves. Singers prepared well and the Bamboo Dance was excellent. I think even those who are advanced in age, especially among the Japanese members, enjoyed several games, including playing musical chairs. I also joined and sung two Japanese songs and, more over, we all enjoyed powerful performance of the Parish Priest, Fr. Junichi Ebe, with his bamboo flute (SHAKU HACHI).

Thank you for those who prepared for the party. I really enjoyed the time with the group. As I said at the beginning of the party, you have been sent to Japan to be a witness of the Gospel. You do not have to go out and proclaim the good news, rather you should be a living testimony of the message of God among your families and communities where the traditional Japanese Church could not reach out. You are missionaries in this diocese. I count on you.

Dec 26, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all !

How was your Christmas celebration? Though we just began our Christmas celebration yesterday in our faith tradition, in fact, the celebration was already over in Japan except among us, Christians. After the celebration in our Cathedral had completed, I went for a walk around 7 pm to downtown Niigata which is just a few minutes away from my house. As I was passing by the Daiwa department store in downtown Niigata, I realised that the number of company staff removing the "Dancing Rabbits" and other Christmas ornaments away. Wow, it is still on the Christmas day but they are removing all these as if the celebration is over. Well, yes it is in Japan.

As I mentioned about these machine rabbits on November 14's post, the "Usagi (Rabbit) Dancing Team" of Daiwa department store has been a common sight in Niigata to prepare for Christmas. Then in order to replace these Christmas decoration, a beautiful and magnificent flower arrangement was brought in to the spot to be ready for the New Year's celebration. So today in the town, no one is thinking about Christmas anymore but the New Year celebration.

Well, on 24 at 8 pm in Niigata Cathedral, during the midnight Mass of the Nativity of the Lord presided by myself, 3 ladies were baptised. Two of them were Japanese and one was a Brazilian lady. As usual in the past, so many non-Christians came to attend the Mass. For quite sometime, spending time in Christian Churches for Christmas Eve has been a kind of fashion in Japan. So our Cathedral which can contain only 300 people was packed. I hope my message on dignity of Human lives which is a gift of God left something in the heart of those who just happened to be with us for the celebration.

Dec 24, 2009

Visit to Bangladesh

I have made a 5-day visit of Bangladesh from 14 to 18 December as a member of the Caritas Japan team. Caritas Japan has been assisting 3 specific programs in cooperation with Caritas Bangladesh. Our financial assistance goes to the "Education Support Program to Children (ESPC)" which support especially children of indigenous people in 3 areas. As for this visit, we made a 3-day trip to north west city of Rajshahi where more than 300 kids receives financial assistance to continue their secondary education. Caritas Japan also assist children in Chittagong and Sylhet within the framework of the same program.

Caritas Bangladesh which employs more than 3,500 as full time staff and another 3,500 as part time staff all over Bangladesh is regarded as one of the best NGOs in the country by many, probably also by the government. At this moment, they manage more than 60 programs in the country. Though the number of Catholics in the country is less than 0.3% of the entire population of more than 150 million and majority of the country are Muslim, this Catholic NGO managed to achieve such reputation through their efficient activities and good relationship with other religious believers. In fact, 60% of employee of the CB are from Muslim community.

Children we met in Rajshahi were quite enthusiastic about realising their future dreams such as being doctor, teacher, nurse and engineer, even some among them aspire to be religious. Indigenous people in Bangladesh has been going through hard time since the independence of the country in 1971 from Pakistan. As they belong neither Hindu nor Muslim communities, they could not find their own place in neither in India nor Bangladesh. Many of them are landless and jobless. Unfortunately, as in many other countries which has indigenous people, their fundamental human rights have not been protected and secured.

We visited a family of one student. Their house was surrounded by paddy fields but none of them belong to the family. They are landless and living on the public property. In order to make a living, the parents have to be hired by day labor which provide them less than 200 Yen a day for each. Despite of all sort of difficulties, father of the student told me his hope and expectation of blight future of his son through education which Caritas Japan has been assisting. He was determined to overcome any difficulties for his Son to continue his education. (Photo above is the father of the student)

My gratitude to Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi who hosted me in his residence with his warm smile and also to Dr. Benedict Alo D'Rozario, the executive director of CB and all other staff members of CB.

Dec 20, 2009

Snow, snow ,snow!

I am back in Niigata from a 5-day-visit of Bangladesh for Caritas Japan. As I arrived at Niigata station yesterday morning, snow-covered Niigata city welcomed me. Heavy snow fall started on Thursday and today, Sunday, it is still snowing hard. According to a newspaper, this is the record snow fall of December in Niigata city in 24 years. Niigata prefecture is famous as snow region but Niigata city itself does not have so much snow usually. So this is really exceptional.

Despite this heavy snow fall, more than 20 youths from several parishes in Niigata area gathered together at Niigata Catholic Center for their Christmas gathering this afternoon at 2 pm. They started the event with baking Christmas cake by themselves. Then they went into the group discussion on the theme of meaning of Christmas. Around 4 pm, I also joined the group. After listening to their reports of the group discussion, I gave a talk on the meaning of Christmas in modern society.

In fact, Christmas celebration is quite common in modern Japanese society and shops are filled with Christmas gifts. However, in most cases, these celebrations are without Jesus himself. So it is easy to say that their Christmas is fake and the "real" Christmas is our possession. However this kind of distinction does not produce anything good out of it. Rather we should think that all these secular Christmas events have their roots in the birth of Jesus Christ and because of this,their origin, it will produce something good in the society such as sharing gifts or sharing table with someone. Good has to produce good.

After the sharing and my talk, now we shared the cake followed by exchange of gifts and several songs. Thank you for coming to the party and I hope you will bring this joy of Christmas to your family and friends.

Dec 11, 2009

Taking charge of Sapporo diocese

So now I am officially started my duty as an apostolic administrator of Sapporo on Monday. All the district superiors and number of priests working in the diocese, both diocesan and religious, gathered together at the Diocesan center on Monday at 10:30 am. With them, I have managed to appoint Fr.Uesugi, a diocesan priest, as my representative in Sapporo. He will represent me in the diocese while I am not in Sapporo and act as a liaison. Together with the diocesan chancellor, Fr.Kato, I will discuss day-to-day operation of the diocese within this 3 men team. Then I also asked all the priests to remain in their positions in the diocese for mean time. Komon-kai will remain as it is, adding my representative as a new member, though. I hope and pray, and at the same time I ask everyone to pray with me, that a new bishop for Sapporo to be appointed as soon as possible. Mean while, I may have to travel to Sapporo once a month, mostly during the last week of each month. (Photo above is the Sapporo diocesan chancellor's office)

After the meeting with priests, we all went to the Cathedral for my "installation". Of course, I am not a diocesan bishop of Sapporo and, therefore, I am not eligible to take the see of Sapporo. However, as a diocesan administrator, I have to profess my faith and take an oath in front of witnesses. So I did in the chapel on Monday in front of these priests praying for me. We are also planning to organise a thanksgiving Mass for retired Bishop Jinushi sometime in February in Sapporo.

I will be flying to Bangladesh from Sunday till Saturday for Caritas Japan business. So that the next posting will be on or after 20 December.

Dec 8, 2009

Confirmation in Nagaoka

Last Sunday, the second Sunday of advent, 9 people received the sacrament of confirmation in Nagaoka city in Niigata prefecture. There are 2 parishes in Nagaoka across the JR railroad, one in Fukuzumi and the other in Omotemachi. Out of these 9 confirmed, one young lady was confirmed in Fukuzumi at 6:30 am. She had to take very important exam to enter a high school during the day and unable to join others for usual Sunday Mass. The morning Mass was attend by her family and more than 10 members who, after Mass, sat together for breakfast.

Then 8 people received the sacrament during 10:15 am Mass in Omotemachi. Parish priest, Fr. Bruno, an Italian Franciscan, and his assistant, Fr. Ferdi, a Filipino SVD, con celebrated with me. I was so happy to say Mass with so many small boys and girls trying hard to serve Mass as alter boys and girls. They did very well though each one did not have much to do since there are too many.

After the Mass at 1 pm, I had to drive down to Kamo city for blessing of a new kindergarten building. You might remember that I did the Groundbreaking ceremony for the construction on 28 April. The construction company, Shibata Kensetsu, did very good job and the director, Fr.Kamata and all the staff members of the KG were so happy. Congratulations for Kamo Shirayuri Kindergarten.

Then I flew to Sapporo on Sunday night to attend a meeting with priests working in the Sapporo diocese and also to be sworn in as the apostolic administrator during a ceremony on Monday morning in Sapporo Cathedral.

Dec 4, 2009

It's Chrismas season in Japan!

If you are to be in Japan at this time of the year, you will believe what I am telling you that Japan is a Christian country. Of course, business people definitely seizes an opportunity of festive mood of Christmas so that, in all over Japan, Christmas decors permeated every shopping districts. But not only for the business districts. Quite high percentage of people in Japan considers Christmas as one of the important annual events in this country. Especially for young couples, arranging for a special diner in a luxury hotel or an expensive restaurant on Christmas eve has been a kind of modern life style's must for them. Then after the dinner, many of them take time to come to us, means to attend Mass in our Churches. For many parishes in Japan, Christmas midnight Mass provides highest annual Mass attendance.

I hope these people would meet and know the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dec 1, 2009

Pilgrimage to Rome

More than 160 pilgrims from Japan waved small national flags of both Japan and the Holy See during the general audience in the Paul VI Hall on Wednesday, 25 November. On the stage sitting next to Holy Father were 6 Japanese bishops, including myself together with Apostolic Nuncio to Japan. The pilgrimage had been planned by the Japanese Bishops conference to show our gratitude to Holy Father on beatification of 188 martyrs a year ago and present the relics of Japanese martyrs to him. The group of pilgrims were divided into several small groups and each group had different itinerary. I joined the group of 13 which followed the shortest schedule of leaving Japan on Monday and return to Narita on Saturday. Among these 13 were Bishop Jinushi, emeritus bishop of Sapporo, and Father Urano of Tokyo diocese.

All the groups came together for the Wednesday's activities which included the general audience to meet Holy Father, Mass in Vatican city government office chapel, private visit to the Sistine Chapel and a diner in near by Hotel inviting several Cardinals and other dignitaries, among them was Mr Ueno, the Japanese ambassador to Holy See. It was a long day and tough activities for most of the pilgrims who were quite advanced in age.

Besides the Wednesday activities, we had a chance to celebrate Mass in Lateran basilica and Jesu Church where the right arm of St Francis Xavier has been kept and venerated. He is the beginning of everything of Christian history in Japan. I was privileged to give homily during that Mass.

Nov 21, 2009

Bishop of Sapporo retired

On 17 November at noon time in Rome, it was made public that Holy Father accepted a resignation submitted by Bishop Peter Toshio Jinushi of Sapporo on reaching age limit. Bishops have to submit a resignation when we reach 75 years old. Most of the cases, announcement of retirement comes with announcement of his successor. Unfortunately there was no such announcement for Bishop Jinushi's successor this time. Therefore, Bishop's see of Sapporo has been vacant since 17 November. To take care of the daily business of Sapporo diocese, Holy Father appointed me as the Apostolic Administrator "SEDE VACANTE ET AD NUTUM SANCTAE SEDIS" of Sapporo diocese. So I will be in charge of Sapporo till a new bishop will be appointed for Sapporo diocese. Of course, I remain as a bishop of Niigata, however since I may have to visit Sapporo quite often, I may have to reduce my work in Niigata for sometime, one year or two? Please pray for quick appointment of a new bishop for Sapporo and also kindly remember me in your prayer. (Photo above. A statue of Jesus in Takatori Catholic Church in Kobe. The statue survived the earthquake and fire in 1995)

The 15th Korea-Japan Bishops Exchange meeting

Catholic Bishops Conference both from Korea and Japan, as neighbouring conferences, have been holding regular meeting in one of either country once a year by this time of the year since 1995. So the 15th meeting between Catholic Bishops of Korea and Japan was held in Osaka from 17 to 20 November which was attended by 14 bishops from Korea and 17 from Japan. The main topic of this year's meeting was to lean from life history of late Cardinal Kim of Soul who passed away in February this year. Bishop Kang U-il, bishop of Cheju and the president of the Korean Bishops Conference, who had been an auxiliary bishop for Cardinal Kim for long time gave us a talk on late cardinal's life. We also had a chance to watch a DVD presentation on his life history.

The group was divided to 3 after the talk and lunch with priests of Osaka to visit 3 different areas in Osaka to learn about reality and history of this area. I joined a group which went to Kobe to learn about severe earthquake in 1995 and visited Takatori Catholic Church which was burnt down with all other houses in the affected area after the quake. There we met those who are working for various NGOs and also visited FM YY (Wai Wai) which has been providing local information in many languages since the quake time so that foreign residents in the area are not left behind. After the study session, we also had wonderful diner in one of the local cuisine to enjoy OKONOMIYAKI, a local Japanese pancake.

After the serious meeting, we also had fun of visiting AWAJI island. My biggest surprise was the Otsuka Museum where they reproduced the Sistine Chapel precisely in size and colour. They have special technique to reproduce art on ceramic tiles. They are not just a copy but a work of art by itself.

Big thanks for Osaka archdiocese for wonderful hospitality. We will meet in Korea for next meeting.

Nov 15, 2009

Confirmation in TERAO

On this very windy, or rather stormy day in Niigata, 9 people received sacrament of Confirmation in St. John's Parish in TERAO in Niigata city. Parish Priest of the TERAO is Fr. Tadashi Machida who just turned 78 a few days ago. Because of the strong wind this morning, we were afraid that some of the candidates might not be able to reach the parish on time since they had to travel by train from outside the city. Sure the train was delayed but they managed to reach the parish on time. After the bad train accident in Yamagata a few years ago, train company, JR, is very cautious of running train on windy days.

Strong wind on the day of confirmation is very symbolic and meaningful. As we know the existence of wind by the effects of wind, such as dust stirred up or trees trembling, and not by the physical shape of wind which is invisible, Holy Spirit is recognised by its effect through us who believe in God and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. So we are obliged to be witnesses of the Holy Spirit to others around us through our own action, words and behavior.

Congratulations for those who received the sacrament and well done for preparation of the liturgy including good performance of 2 alter boys and 2 very cute alter girls.

Nov 14, 2009

Beginning of the end of the Daiwa Usagi.

This Usagi (Rabbit) dancing team has become a common sight in Niigata to prepare for Christmas. They always appear around this time of the year in a store window of DAIWA department store in Furumachi, Niigata. Of course, these rabbits are not real but mechanical toys. They dance to the typical Christmas songs such as "Jingle Bell" or "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. " Boy, these rabbits are cute. You can expect to witness a mother enjoying songs and dancing of them with her little kid in front of the store window during the day time or a gentleman who got tipsy dancing with them by night. They dance 24 hours a day triggered by a human motion detector. A high-tech machine!

However, it would be the last winter for these rabbits to dance in Niigata since their home, the Daiwa department store would be closed down next June. Because of poor business performance in Niigata prefecture where they have 3 stores, Daiwa department store from Kanazawa decided to close all these 3 stores in Niigata. That means we are losing our favorite rabbits. I will miss them for sure.

Tomorrow, there will be a confirmation Mass in Terao Parish in Niigata at 9:30 am.

Nov 8, 2009

Catholic Teachers' workshop in Sendai

Last week on Friday and Saturday, the 24th workshop for Catholic Teachers in TOHOKU area was held in SHIRAYURI High School in Sedani. All together 130 teachers from 11 Catholic Schools in the 7 prefectures which has been divided into 2 dioceses, Sendai and Niigata, attended the two-day workshop on the theme " Pass the Catholic spirit to Our Students". As the head of dioceses, Bishop Hiraga of Sendai and I participated the workshop while Bishop Mizobe of Takamatsu was invited as a main speaker on the theme.

Out of 11 schools, we have 2 of them in Niigata diocese, Seirei in Akita and Seishin in Niigata. Though the majority of the participants were from Shirayuri High, the host school, each school had sent 5 to 6 teachers including several head teachers to the workshop knowing maintaining the Catholic identity in their school is crucial factor for their future survival as Catholic schools. First and most, number of kids are decreasing in Japan drastically. Then vocation crisis in most of the religious orders resulting decreasing number of the religious presence in these Catholic schools. For instance, not only Sisters are no more teaching or working in Seishin High Shool in Niigata, even the administration of the school has been handed over to the secular corporation. I have been granting permission to the school to be called the Catholic since I am in the board and the administration had promised to maintain Catholic identity in the school including maintaining regular religion classes.

The workshop started with several open classes followed by the talk by Bishop Mizobe. I attended the Religious Music Class for Senior High 3rd grade students. The class was preparation for Hallelujah Chorus during the Christmas celebration for which entire student body of the Shirayuri participates. Photo above is from the class.

Second day was dedicated for small group discussion and closing Mass said by Bishop Hiraga while I preached a sermon. They will meet for yet another workshop in 2 years time in Hachinohe.

Nov 3, 2009

St.Damien de Veuster, SS.CC.

Thanks giving Mass for canonization of St.Damien de Veuster, SS.CC., was held in SAGAE, Yamagata at 10:30 am today. Fathers of the SS.CC., Society of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, are in charge of mission in Yamagata district in my diocese. St.Damien is well known to many as the leper priest of Molokai. He has been canonized on 11 October this year in Vatican.

More than 250 people came to attend the Mass. After the Mass, Fr. Donegan gave a talk on the life history of St.Damien. Also minor seminarians of Salesians from Yokohama performed a play on the life of St.Damien in Molokai. The seminarians did very well. Then members of Shinjo gave vote of thanks to everyone for their help to build their church in Shinjo. As I have mentioned this several times, there are number of Filipino mothers residing in my diocese and there are more than 100 of them in Shinjo. Together with their kids and sometimes with their husbands who are not Christians in most cases, they have been meeting in several places for Sunday Mass. With support of members of this diocese, we are trying to build their own church in Shinjo. At this moment, we are very close to reach the goal. Let us pray hard so that Almighty Father will give us more help to realise our dream. (Photo above; together with one of the members of Yamagata who gave a interesting performance. Behind us are Filipino mothers preparing for their turn)

During the party, Kawasaki DARC members gave a performance of traditional Okinawa dance and drumming. Then there were several good performances by Filipino members, both mothers and kids, from Shinjo and Yamagata, singing by members of various parishes in Yamagata and, finally to conclude, traditional Hanagasa dance by everyone.

Congratulations for members of the SS.CC. and thank you everyone to join the celebration.

Nov 2, 2009

I've just turned 51

November 1st is my birthday and I have just turned 51 yesterday. I have been receiving quite a number of e-mails on my birthday. Thank you so much for your kind words and prayers. I ask you to continue to remember me and my diocese, Niigata in your prayer.

Photo above is from Akita on the day of confirmation with 12 who received the sacrament and their sponsor.

There will be a Thanksgiving Mass for the Canonization of St.Damian, a missionary of Molokai and a member of the SS.CC., in Yamagata tomorrow. So I am leaving for Yamagata this afternoon. The SS.CC. (The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary) missionaries are working in Yamagata district. Congratulations for SS.CC. confreres.

Oct 31, 2009

Late in the fall

Within a few hours, month of October will be over and November is starting with, it seems according to the weather forecast, drastic weather change from fall to winter in Japan. Just to catch up the glimpse of fall, I have been to SADO island on Thursday and Friday. Weather was fine and sea was very calm. I had a choice of 2 and half hours Ferry boat trip or just an hour Jetfoil (very high speed ship with turbine jet engine) trip. In the Ferry boat, I would be able to move around and enjoy sea breeze but in the Jetfoil, I have to buckled down to a seat just like an airplane. To maximise my time in SADO island, I took Jetfoil this time on both ways.

The Church building of SADO which has been chosen by the local government as one of the best 100 local treasures in SADO was built in 1887 by a Paris missionary (MEP). The present parish priest is Fr.Kawasaki who has been my Vicar General and the director of the Kindergarten adjacent to the parish. Sado has been enjoying a lot of attention because of existence of TOKI, Japanese crested ibis. The bird is the original species in Japan and, unfortunately, the last wild one died a few years ago in Sado. It is almost the extinct species. However the Japanese government managed to borrow several of them from China and now trying to breed them artificially in order to bring them back to the nature. As at present, they have released several TOKIs in Sado and many of them are surviving. I could not see any of them in wild but visited the center where TOKIs are artificially bred and trained to return to the nature.

SADO has been known as an island of gold mine for many years and also as an island of exile in Japanese history. According to the history, many Christians are sent to the island during the persecution times and died here. There is a place called HYAKUNIN ZUKA (A hundred people's tomb) in middle of the island in top of a mountain where, according to the tradition, the executed Christians were buried. Very important place for us.

By the way, two meetings were held in Niigata today, Saturday. In the morning, a meeting of the Khabarovsk group met together to discuss about next year's planned youth gathering in Khabarovsk. The group will come with a concrete plan for the gathering very soon to inform our youth to join the event. I also hope to organise another visit of Khabarovsk at least once in next year other than the youth activity. The group is hoping to organise the gathering from 23 to 30 August next year.

In the afternoon, a meeting of the committee which organised the 10th National Assembly of the "KA-SHO-REN", Catholic Association of Disabled Persons of Japan held in Niigata in August was held. The representative from the central office of the association also joined today's meeting to discuss about the possibility to establish the local association of disabled Catholics in Niigata. We could not come to the conclusion today but I hope that some kind of the structure would be realised in near future in the diocese.

Oct 26, 2009

Confirmation in AKITA

Twelve people received the sacrament of Confirmation during last Sunday Mass in Akita parish. It was a part of my official visitation of the Akita parish, though I have visited and said Mass already in Akita in September for their 125th anniversary. Well, it is good to visit the parish on usual Sunday so that I can see the real attendance of Sunday Mass. Akita supposed to be the biggest parish in the diocese and, because of the number and history, I expect more effort of the evengelisation from the parish community though I do understand the difficult cultural and social situation in rural Akita.

The parish priest, Fr.Makoto Nagayama, SVD did very well in preparing alter boys and girls utilising his talent as a high school teacher for over the years. Among these 12, 4 were students of SEIREI (SSpS)schools; 3 students of the high school and a student of the junior college. All of them have their unique history to reach this day. It is not so usual to have so many catholic students at one time in our "Catholic Schools" in this rural area. Congratulations and I will expect all of you to be responsible members of the community in Evangelisation. (Photo above: Akita Parish church on the confirmation Sunday)

By the way, the rumor about him was really true. Last Saturday, Holy Father accepted a resignation of Cardinal Martino as the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and appointed Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson as its new president. Cardinal Turkson, 61, is from Ghana, my beloved second home country. The cardinal has been an archbishop of Cape Coast, very traditional Ghanaian see. He was appointed the archbishop in 1992 while he was still studying for his doctorate in Rome after his archbishop, famous late archbishop John Amissah died in motor accident in 1991. The late archbishop was the first Ghanaian to be elevated to the episcopacy in age of 34 in 1957 and was a strong voice against any social injustice committed by the authority. When one of his diocesan priest was arrested because of his opposition to the dictatorship of the army government, the late archbishop went to the police station and stood in front of the main entrance over night to demand his release. That is one of his famous stories. I attended his funeral Mass in Cape Coast, since I was working in Ghana at that time. During the ceremony, a fighter jet flew over the site very low and we knew that the chairman of the PNDC, the military government at that time, JJ Rawlings was flying the plane by himself to pay respect to his one of archenemies. He was really a "Big Man".

Some say that Cardinal Turkson would be a candidate for next Pope. May be. Congratulations for Cardinal.

Oct 19, 2009

Honjo's 50th anniversary

The Holy Family Parish in Yuri-Honjo city in Akita has celebrated its 50th anniversary of foundation on last Sunday. Yuri-Honjo city is a new city made up of 2 different cities, Yuri and Honjo. Since the Church is in the former Honjo city, we usually call the Church "Honjo Catholic Church". According to his article in the commemorative booklet prepared by the Parish, the Parish Priest, Fr.Kiyoaki Momota, SVD, wrote that 11 January, 1959 had been set as the date of the foundation since that was the day of the very first Mass in Honjo by a SVD missionary. In the same year, a kindergarten was also established in the Parish which celebrated the 50th anniversary together with the Church.

I was a main celebrant of the Thanksgiving Mass on Sunday. Fr.Ichise, the SVD provincial and Fr.Otaki, diocesan chancellor also joined the concelebration. During the Mass, 2 members of Honjo received a sacrament of confirmation. Though the Honjo community is a small one with only 10 to 20 Sunday Mass attendance, more than80 faithful, including several SSpS sisters from Akita gathered together to celebrate.

After the Mass, we moved to a nearby Hotel for a party. During the party, not only singing a popular song on their native Nagasaki with Fr.Provincial, the Parish priest mentioned quite important point on the future of the parish. He said though the Japanese population is aging and decreasing in the area, number of people coming from other countries are increasing in Akita area which includes number of Catholic faithfuls. So from now on, they have to think about the way to create a Catholic community with these members from other countries and that will be a real challenge for the future.

Photo above is a small performance planned by Mr.Morita from Niigata during the party. The second in the line is the Parish Priest.

Oct 16, 2009


Photo above is not related to the title. It is a photo from the silver jubilee celebration of Fr.Masahiro Sato on last Monday. Fr.Sato singing with youth.

An e-mail from Fr.Tsutomu Sato, a parish priest of KAMO in Niigata and the other SATO from the photo above, brought me a good news on pilgrimage by some of the members of KAMEDA parish. According to his information, a group of 6 pilgrims from KAMEDA parish arrived yesterday at KAMO walking from NIITSU parish which is 20 km away. They left NIITSU at 9 am and arrived at KAMO at 3:30 pm. After the prayer, they went back to KAMEDA by JR train. This is a part of the pilgrimage the group has been trying to accomplish since the beatification of 188 martyrs last year November. Their plan is to cover all the parishes in Niigata area on foot whenever they have ample time. According to the information, the group will return to KAMO within next few weeks to continue their way from, for next segment, KAMO to SANJO. What a wonderful challenge they are making! Pilgrimage on foot is one of the best way to reflect one's life, to meditate and to be converted. I was thinking about the possibility to promote such pilgrimage in the diocese to commemorate the 100 anniversary of the diocese in 2012.

Another good news. Last night in the Bishop's residence, a group to plan for on-going formation of the faithful in Niigata diocese has met first time since its establishment in May. The group consist of 5 members, namely Fr.Otaki as a leader, Fr.Sakamoto, Mr.Maruyama of Shibata, Ms.Seki and Mr.Sakaguchi, both from Terao. They have been appointed to realise the third priority of the diocese which was set by myself last year based on the discussion of the Diocesan Pastoral Council. The third priority says, " In order to become a diocese with mature faithful, diocese will provide opportunity for on-going formation". They will meet once a month and will come out with a master plan by next April.

Oct 13, 2009

Fr.Sato celebrated his silver jubilee.

Rev.Fr. Masahiro SATO, a diocesan priest of Niigata, celebrated his silver jubilee of ordination as a priest yesterday in Shibata parish where he has been a parish priest for past 2 years. More than 200 people gathered together to celebrate 60-year-old Father's jubilee including 13 fellow priests. I presided over the jubilee Mass and Fr.Yoshi-ike, a diocesan priest of Tokyo and a parish priest of Koenji, gave a homily. Frs.Sato and Yoshi-ike became friends when they were in Rome for higher studies number of years ago. According to Fr.Yoshi-ike, Fr.Sato was a student who had spent more time in his room studying alone rather than in class room. Whatever that means, both enjoyed living in Rome.

After the Mass, we managed to take a group photo in front of the famous chapel designed by Antonin Raymond for the first time as you can see from the above. Until recently, the road in front of the chapel was so narrow that no one can see the front face of the chapel. The city government did very good job to widen the road by shifting some houses, though not for us but for the development of the city, so that we are now able to stand in front of the chapel to take photos.

After the photo session, we moved to a hotel in near-by Tsukioka Onsen, a famous hot spring area, for celebration. Congratulations, Father Sato and many more blessed years as a priest.

Oct 12, 2009

Justice and Peace meeting in Ageo

The Justice and Peace commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan held 3-day general assembly in Saitama diocese from 10 to 12 October. On Sunday, 11 October, participants visited different parishes in the diocese to celebrate Sunday Mass together with the parish congregations and also to organise study sessions in respected parishes. I was asked to give a talk for the 8th study session organised by Caritas Japan on the poverty issue. The theme of the study session was "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace" which was the theme of the message of Holy Father on the 42nd World Day of Peace 2009. I had an hour to give a talk before Ms. Inae, a Caritas Japan Programme Officer, who gave an hour talk on the actual projects of Caritas Japan in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Uganda. With a mighty assistance by Power Point, I spoke on the reality of poverty in the world, MDGs and Church's Social teachings especially quoting from both Vatican II and Pope John Paul's "Centesimus Annus".

In "Centesimus Annus", late John Paul II gave a good insight on the Human Development issue such as this one; "Finally, development must not be understood solely in economic terms, but in a way that is fully human. It is not only a question of raising all peoples to the level currently enjoyed by the richest countries, but rather of building up a more decent life through united labour, of concretely enhancing every individual's dignity and creativity, as well as his capacity to respond to his personal vocation, and thus to God's call (29)".

If we see the reality of this world, particularly 8:2 division among people which means 80 % of world population possesses only 20% of world wealth, we have to say that raising all populations life level to the one of, say, for instance, Japan is impossible considering present environmental crisis and limit of natural resources. Realistically, re-distribution of world wealth at this moment is unrealistic to think about. Then what can we do? Then come that word of JPII. Our aim as a Catholic Aid worker is to realise the world where every individual is fully capable to respond to his or her personal vocation and that would be called the Integral Human Development.

Thank you for more than 60 people who joined the study session for more than 2 hours and I also enjoyed lunch with them after the session.

Before the session, I celebrated Sunday Mass with more than 100 people in Ageo Church assisted by Fr.Nakamura, a parish priest and a permanent deacon Rev. Saito who used to be a lay leader of Ageo. This Sunday Mass was especially planned for kids. Just before we started Mass, an alter boy turned around and told me in this way; Bishop I hope your homily would be good for us, kids. Well, well. A good homily for kids. I tried my best during the homily. I hope it was good for these kids in Ageo.

Oct 10, 2009

SVD ordination in Nagoya today.

There will be a priestly ordination for 2 SVD seminarians in Nagoya today. Fr. Adrianus Leingere Hayon, SVD and Fr. Nikolaus Kondi, SVD, both from Indonesia, will be ordianed a priest during a Mass at 2:30 pm in Nanzan parish by Bishop Nomura of Nagoya. SVD has a programme called "OTP" or "Overseas Training Programme" for more than 25 years. Seminarians, after completing their philosophy and novitiate, can apply for 2 or 3 years experience in different language and different culture from one's own. The Japan province of SVD has also accepted number of seminarians from other countries for past 20years and many of them remained in Japan after the OTP to continue their formation in the seminary in Nagoya. 2 new priests are also the product of the OTP. Since SVDs are working in my diocese, particularly in Akita district, and also we have one Filipino SVD residing in Nagaoka to work for diocesan programme of the migrant apostolate, I hope one of these 2 will be assigned to Niigata. Congratulations for 2 newly ordained Fathers.

Last Thursday, Japan was hit by Typhoon no. 18 (we do not use international naming of the typhoon. Instead we use simple numbering system in Japan. I do not know why, though.) which left quite a damage over people's lives. As far as I know, no church facilities are damaged. I was in Tokyo for 2 meetings on Thursday and I could not come back to Niigata till next day since train system was in mess. Photo above is the Tokyo in dusk on Thursday evening after typhoon. You may see a glimpse of Mt.Fuji at the left side of the photo.

I will be going to Ageo Church in Saitama prefecture to give a talk on the Caritas activities tomorrow as a part of the National Assembly of JPIC in Saitama. I will celebrate 9 am Mass tomorrow in Ageo before the talk.

Oct 6, 2009

Return of the delegation from Russia

The 5-member delegation team which had visited Khabarovsk from last Friday came home safe on Monday afternoon with a lot of smile and a lot of story to tell. Though I was away to Tokyo for a meeting yesterday and I have not met all of them for "debriefing", Fr.Sakamoto told me that they enjoyed wonderful hospitality of the Catholic Community of Khabarovsk led by Fr.Marcelo and Fr.Ivan. Also they could manage to discuss about the possibility to have a gathering of youth in Khabarovsk next summer. We still have a lot to discuss before we would be able to finalise the idea for next summer since the concept of a gathering may be slight different in 2 countries. Probably, a week long retreat would be a good idea for youth from both countries to know each other, to share time for prayer and fun and, much more important, to feel they are brothers and sisters in Christ. Since taking a week long holiday in Japan might be slight difficult even for youth, we may have to be flexible to organise such an event but I hope at least 5 to 10 young Catholics from Niigata might be able to join the event next summer.

Thank you Fr.Marcelo, Fr.Ivan and the community in Khabarovsk. (Photo above; the team)

A district assembly for laity was held for Shibata

Last Sunday was the day for a district assembly for laity for the SHIBATA district in Niigata prefecture which includes following parishes; Shibata, Niitsu, Kamo, Sanjo, Muramatsu, Mitsuke and Tochio. The assembly was held in St.Anna parish in Niitsu. The assembly for the Shibata district has been held every year with a specific theme and this year's theme is "the role of laity in Evangelisation".

More than 100 laity gathered together in Niitsu on Sunday at 10 am for Sunday Mass presided over by myself and concelebrated by all the priests in the district. After the Mass, Mr.Ryu Suzuki from Tokyo, editor in chief of the monthly magazine "Fukuin Senkyo (Evangelisation)" gave a talk on the theme.

Parishioners of Niitsu prepared wonderful soup, "Ton jiru (miso soup with pork and vegetables)" for the participants' lunch. After we enjoyed time for sharing lunch, we came back for yet another sharing, sharing information from each parishes. The assembly ended by 3 pm.

Big thanks to Fr.Kamata, the parish priest and members of the Niitsu.

Oct 4, 2009

Takada's centennial celebration

Christ the King Parish in TAKADA, Niigata prefecture, celebrated the 100 anniversary of its foundation yesterday. I presided over the celebration Mass and Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello, Apostolic Nuncio, graced the occasion by concelebrated the Mass. More than 450 people, though some of them could not get into the chapel and joined the Mass from a class room through live telecast, gathered together to celebrate. It was in 1909, an SVD missionary, Fr.Franz Friese, traveled more than 300 km by a bicycle from Kanazawa to Takada to establish a new mission. Within 2 years, in 1911, he managed to baptise several people in Takada. There is no doubt to say that he had faced difficult situations as a foreigner just to live in a rural area in Japan a hundred years ago, not mentioning his difficulty to proclaim Jesus as Christ in traditional Buddhist area.

Since 1957, Takada parish has been under the care of OFM missionaries from Italy. Present pastor is an Italian OFM, Fr.Mario Canducci. After the Mass, during a big celebration party in a nearby wedding hall, Fr.Mario exhibit his wonderful talent of music by singing Santa Lucia with a Lady's Choir who worn choir robes from 45 years ago. There were wonderful music by a 4-brother's band and dance by Filipino mothers. Thank you everyone. It was a wonderful celebration and you did very well.

We would like to give thanks to all these missionaries who dedicated their lives to proclaim the Gospel in Takada in spite of difficult situation. We also give thanks to all these people who supported the activities and life of missionaries. We have to learn from their enthusiasm since we are doing our mission based on their heritage which has been telling us that we should not afraid to proclaim the Good News though we are facing difficulties.

Oct 2, 2009

A delegation team to visit Khabarovsk today

A 5-member delegation team from Niigata diocese is visiting Khabarovsk in Russia this afternoon and will return on Monday evening. Their visit is a part of our exchange programme between Niigata diocese and Khabarovsk Catholic Church in Irkutsk diocese. If you look at the world map carefully, you will immediately notice that Niigata is quite close to Siberia. In fact, there are twice a week service of flights by Vladivostok Air between Niigata and Khabarovsk, and also twice a week service between Niigata and Vladivostok. Then, the city of Niigata has been a sister city of Khabarovsk for many years.
We have started this exchange programme since last year and this is the fourth time that our delegation is visiting them. We may not be able to assist them financially, though. We want them to feel that they are not isolated. As a community in the same faith and as a part of the same one body of Jesus, we want to establish long term cooperation between these 2 small Christian communities.

This time, by the way I am not joining them because of other engagements in Niigata, Fr.Machida is the leader of the delegation together with Fr.Sakamoto and 3 laity from the diocese including 2 representatives from youth group. We hope to organise a summer camp in Khabarovsk for the Youth from both Niigata and Khabarovsk communities, probably next summer. Since Fr.Sakamoto is in charge of youth apostolate of the diocese, I have asked him to join the team and discuss the possibility with youths in Khabarovsk.

I wish them a safe journey and happy stay.

Sep 30, 2009

The National Athletics Festival In Niigata

The 64th National Athletics Festival (KOKUTAI) has been taking place in Niigata prefecture from 26 September to 6 October. The KOKUTAI has been held since 1946 in rotation basis among 47 prefectures in Japan. That means this is the second time for Niigata to host the event. Last one was in 1964 and it has been remembered by many in different ways. 1964 was the year of the Olympic Games in Tokyo and because of the date of the Olympic, KOKUTAI was shifted to June instead of usual September or October. But also it is remembered because of the earth quake in Niigata immediately after the KOKUTAI. Because of the disaster, summer event of the KOKUTAI in 1964 was cancelled.

For the opening ceremony of the KOKUTAI, Emperor has visited Niigata for 3 days. Photo above is the motorcade of Emperor on their way to the Hotel Okura near the Cathedral. There were quite heavy security by Police including Imperial Guard Police from Tokyo. The motorcade took more than 10 minutes to pass by, which was completely opposite of the Presidential motorcade I witnessed several times in Ghana. They went very fast but the emperor's motorcade goes very slow so that emperor has chance to wave to gathering crowd.

Sep 29, 2009

In my native Miyako

Miyako is a port town in Iwate prefecture famous for their fishery industries and beautiful coastal line of the Sanriku-Kaigan. I was born in Miyako in 1958 and was baptisend within a few weeks in Miyako Catholic Church by a Swiss missionary of the Bethelehem Foreign Missionaries for whom my father was a Catechist. I was there till I entered a elementary school in Morioka. So Miyako is my native home town though I did not spend much time there.

In 2003, Miyako Catholic Church celebrated 50th anniversary of dedication of its chapel and that was my last time to visit the town. By then, I was a provincial superior of the SVD in Japan. I should have visited Miyako early to celebrate thanksgiving Mass immediately after my episcopal ordination since Miyako Church should be regarded as my foundation or base of my life as a Christian. Finally I found a day to visit Miyako and celebrated Mass on last Sunday.

Development in town gave great changes in face of Miyako but the city has been suffering the decreasing number of population especially among youths. The church community was small and aging. There are number of long time members who know me as a baby. However, I could also see a glimpse of hope in the community. There are number of young people joining the Mass. Present Parish priest is Fr. Felipe, MG from Mexico who is an energetic and cheerful young priest. Both senior and young members are happy to be with him.

Thank you so much for your wonderful hospitality, Fr.Felipe and the community and I will try to visit Miyako more often.

Sep 25, 2009

Touring Akita - 3

Finally on 22, Tuesday, we had a quite special Mass in a chapel of the Seitai Hoshi Kai in Akita. Rev.Fr. Peter Mitsuyo NISHIMURA celebrated his golden jubilee of ordination to the priesthood. Fr.NISHIMURA, 80 years old Niigata diocesan priest, has been serving as a chaplain to the Seitai Hoshi Kai for nearly 20 years. Originally from Hokkaido, Father joined the Trappist monastery in Hakodate and later joined the Niigata diocese as a seminarian. The faithful priest is a very shy person who does not want to stand in the spotlight so that it was very difficult to persuade him to have this celebration. Such a humble priest in true humility!

Several diocesan priests and SVD priests in Akita joined the celebration. Congratulations, Father NISHIMURA and we sincerely thank you for your wonderful service and dedication to the Church. Many more years as Catholic priest, Father Nishimura!

Sep 24, 2009

Touring Akita - 2

St.Augustine Parish in Akita celebrated the 125 anniversary of its foundation on Monday, 21 September. According to the parish record, the very first baptism was recorded on 6 January 1884 by a Paris Foreign Mission's (MEP) missionary who was assigned to Akita that year. Around the time of the re-opening of the country in 1868, MEP was asked to be in charge of mission in Japan by the Propaganda Fide. Therefore, majority of parishes in our area which have more than 100 years of history had been established by MEP missionaries including our Cathedral parish in Niigata. In 1907, SVD missionaries have arrived in Japan and assigned to take over the mission in Akita. Since then, Akita has been the SVD mission district. Present parish priest, Fr.Makoto Nagayama, SVD is the 34th parish priest of Akita.

Among the con-celebrants were SVD Provincial Superior, MEP Vice-Provincial, those SVDs formerly worked in Akita, present members of SVDs in the district, other priests from Yamagata and Niigata. More than 20 priests and nearly 400 people joined the Mass presided over by myself. Liturgy was well prepared by the Parish priest though he read wrong passage of gospel during the Mass which made me a bit uneasy to deliver a homily. Well, for such an august occasion, any one would suffer from stage fright.

After the Mass, we moved to the Castle Hotel, just adjacent the Church, to celebrate. It was a well organised party with modest box lunch style food, which was excellently prepared though, and a lot of Sake, original local drinks. Different age groups offered songs and also priests were asked to sing a song. Since we did not remember a lot of common songs among priests, we decided to sing Salve Regina in Latin which the catholic priest should be able to sing by heart.

We sincerely give thanks to those missionaries who dedicated their lives for mission in Akita. We are also grateful to people who supported Church activities for past 125 years. We can easily imagine that foreign missionaries had really hard time just to live in rural Japan more than 100 years ago. They started everything from scratch, from complete zero. But today, though we are facing many difficulties to spread the good news in Japan, we are not starting from zero. We have a good foundation laid by these missionaries. So we should not be afraid to go forward to proclaim good news of Jesus in our diocese.

Touring Akita - 1

After a week long tour of Akita, I am just back in Niigata last night. During my stay in Akita, mostly stayed in the SEITAI HOSHI KAI convent, I had several different events to attend.

First of all, there was a seminar for presidents of Catholic Junior Colleges in Japan on 17 and 18 in Akita Seirei Junior College (the SSpS school) for which 10 junior colleges sent their delegates . Their request for me was to deliver a keynote address on the theme of "what I expect from the Catholic Junior College" and celebrate a Mass. This topic given to me was quite delicate and difficult to talk since it had been a common understanding that all these small scale private Catholic colleges in Japan had been facing similar problem of decline in enrollment, absence of successor in respective religious congregations and financial crisis. It was useless for me to repeat all these problems so that I had to concentrate of the local issue. I mentioned that, though I understand their difficult situation, I expect these colleges to become a primary tool for evangelisation since school provides opportunity to Christianity to meet people who do not have any interest to visit our church.

Then on Sunday, 20, I made a pastoral visit of Tsuchisaki parish in Akita city. Parish priest is Fr.Kotaro Iino, SVD. Since following day is the National day for respect-for-the-Aged, the parish also celebrated a day for senior members. During the Mass, several senior members over 75 years old came forward to receive blessing. Reflecting the reality of Japanese society which is rapidly graying, it has been sometime since we do not hear any sound of young kids or babies during Mass in many parishes and Tsuchisaki was no exception. I hope we would be able to attract more young family to join us. After the Mass, a small but warm reception was held in a parish hall with "KIRITANPO-NABE", Akita's favorite. Thank you for wonderful reception and beautiful songs. (Photo above; those senior members of Tsuchisaki received special blessing)

Sep 15, 2009

Consultors meeting in Tsuruoka

The Niigata diocesan consultors meet every other month in Niigata except once a year in September in one of 5 districts in the diocese. The consultors are appointed by bishop to give him advice on diocesan issues. In Niigata at present, the consultors meeting consists of 6 priests, 3 diocesan and 3 religious from Nagaoka, Yamagata and Akita districts.

As for this year's September meeting, we went to Tsuruoka in Yamagata districts. We had discussion yesterday from 3 pm and diner together. Then this morning we met again in Tsuruoka parish to celebrate Eucharist with some of the parishioners. I was glad to meet more than 20 parishioners to participates in the Mass today even though it was a weekday morning.

After the Mass, I drove down to Shinjo to see several proposed sites for the new parish in Shinjo in Yamagata district. Together with Fr.Honma, the district superior, Fr.Otaki, the secretary general of the diocese and several parishioners, we visited 2 proposed sites. Both were good size and location for Church activities. So I asked the community to deepen their discussion and try to find the solution as soon as possible. Let us pray that Almighty Father will guide us through this process so that we will realise the establishment of Shinjo parish as soon as possible. We may need more prayer and, also more fund to realise the dream.

Sep 13, 2009

Back from Taiwan

I have been to Taiwan to participate in a week long retreat organised by the Cor Unum (Pontifical Council for Human and Christian Development) from 6 to 11 September in Fu-Jen University in Taipei. More than 400 participants from all over Asia assembled in the medical department building of the University which has been run jointly by SJ, SVD and diocese. There were more than 60 bishops including 5 cardinals, Cardinal Cordes( president of the Cor Unum),retired Cardinal Zen of HongKong, Cardinal Rosales of Manila, Cardinal Toppo of Ranchi, India and retired Cardinal Shan Kuo-hsi of Kaohsiung. Japan was represented by myself, Fr.Machida, the diocesan Caritas director of Niigata and Mr. Tadokoro, the director of Caritas Japan. Biggest number of the participants came from India with more than 60 followed by Filipino group and Vietnamese group.

Morning reflection was given every day by Br.Yesudas, the former servant general of the Missionary Brothers of Charity. Originally Sr.Nirmala, the former superior of the Missionaries of Charity supposed to travel from New York to Taipei to share her reflection but due to her health condition, Sr. Preme, present superior of the MC recommended Br.Yesudas as the speaker.

Majority of the participants were directors and officers of either National or Diocesan Caritas all over Asia including Middle East. We were happy to welcome participants from Iraq among us and others from Holy Land to be with us to pray for peace. All together, 26 countries and territories of Asia were represented.

President of the Republic, Mr.Ma Ying-jeou graced the occasion by attending the closing ceremony and delivered very good speech on Catholic Church's role on development in the third world countries.

Thank you for students and staff of the Fu-Jen University for your wonderful organisation and hospitality. It was really amazing to see that they could take all of us, more than 400 participants, residing in 4 different hostels which were scattered around the city to be in the assembly hall of the university on time every day for the morning prayer. You really did very good job. Thank you. (Photo above. The Vietnamese group presenting the life story of their hero, Cardinal Van Thuan)

Sep 5, 2009

Resounding Michael Jackson

It is September and the season for "UN-DO-KAI (Sports festival)" in schools in Japan. An Junior High School next to our Cathedral is no exception and today is the day for them to enjoy all kinds of sports games while their parents are watching with well prepared lunch boxes for their kids. It used to be held in October when I was a kid. In 1964, the 18th Olympic Games started on 10 October in Tokyo and since then, 10 October was designated as the "National Health Sports Day" by the government. (By the way in 2000, the date of the day was changed to the second Monday of October by a new law.) Maybe because of this National Holiday in October, our generation's mind set was created to think that month of October is the month for sports activities. Well, change in the school calender has made the Un-Do-Kai to move to September recent days. The timing is not the only change for modern Un-Do-Kai but its back ground music to cheer participants. It used be a traditional marching music such as "The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa. But I am hearing this morning from the Junior High next to the Cathedral exiting music by Michel Jackson. The time has changed.

I just came back from Tokyo for 3 days of meetings in the Bishops' Conference. I attended 4 meetings including 2 for Caritas Japan. Particularly, in yesterday afternoon, we hold an editorial meeting for a booklet for next year's Lent. Caritas Japan has been tasked by the Bishops' Conference to produce a booklet for Lent to provide a material for spiritual recollection for more than 12 years. Since this is the Year for Priests, we will include several life stories of priests in Japan.

I am traveling to Taipei tomorrow till 12 to attend a retreat organised by Cor Unum (Pontifical Council for Human and Christian Development ). Therefore, next posting might be after 12 September. (Photo above is a Japanese government Jumbo jet exercising in Chitose airport in Hokkaido)

Aug 30, 2009

Confirmation in ITOIGAWA

During today's Sunday Mass, eleven people received the sacrament of Confirmation in St.Francis of Assisi Parish in ITOIGAWA in Niigata prefecture. ITOIGAWA is the southern end of the Niigata Diocese and 2 and half hours drive from Niigata. You may notice from the photo above, majority of the parishioners of ITOIGAWA are Filipino faithful. In fact most of the eleven who were confirmed today are Filipino origin, especially kids of Filipino mothers who had been married with Japanese husbands. They are hope of our diocese.

Parish priest of ITOIGAWA, Fr. Doninic, OFM, who is already 80 years old, is still strong and energetic to lead this international community. There are not only Filipino parishioners but also quite a number of Brazilian members.

By the way, the newly established diocesan committee for communication met first time yesterday in Niigata. The chairman of the committee is Fr.Raul of Aoyama parish. I have asked Mr.Kato of Aoyama to be an editor of the diocesan news paper. Mr.Kiyoshi Saito had been the editor for many years and we are grateful for his long time dedication for this important job. For the new committee, I have appointed members from all the districts of the diocese. It might be difficult for the committee members to meet often because of the geographical condition of the diocese. However, since good communication is quite crucial for evangelisation in our diocese, I hope the members to work hard so that every member of the diocese might share same information and also their contribution might enforce evangelisation of the diocese.

Today was the general election day in Japan. As it is now, LDP (Liberal Democratic Party), the leading party for many years, lost the office and the DPJ(Democratic Party of Japan) will be in charge of the government by big majority. New government is coming to the power. We have to see what will come next.

Aug 25, 2009

SVD 100 years in Philippines

While I was attending the FABC assembly in Manila, the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD) celebrated its centennial anniversary of mission in Philippines. As there are 3 Provinces in Philippines for the SVD, Central(Manila), North and South(Cebu), celebrations also takes place in 3 different places during month of August with Father General, Fr.Toni Pernia. On 14 August, the Central province organised a Mass to celebrate the centennial in Christ the King Mission Seminary in Quezon city. Main celebrant of the Mass was Fr.Pernia with 2 SVD bishops, including myself and 2 other bishops including the local ordinary of Cubao. It was well organised and singing and dancing was great. Photo above is a copy of the local news paper reporting the event.

Congratulations for SVDs in Philippines !

I will be away for a few days to Hokkaido. Next post will be after 29 August.

Aug 24, 2009

Youth gathered in Niigata Catholic Church

A group of Catholic youth of Niigata, ranging in age from 13 up to late 20's, gathered together in Niigata Catholic Church over the weekend. Several youths from Narashino, Chiba prefecture, also joined the gathering which was planned and organised by youths themselves to deepen their friendship and understanding of their faith in Catholic Church.

As it is widely known that Japan is a graying society, with more nuclear families and fewer children. Especially for rural areas such as our diocese, exodus of youths to big cities like Tokyo in order to seek job opportunities or higher education affects much to reduce number of young people joining the Church activities in which young people had been already scarce to begin with. This has been affecting our Church activities in rural dioceses. You do not have to move around to find the example. Just attend one Sunday Mass in our Cathedral in Niigata and you will know immediately that there are not so much young members in the community.

Therefore, I have to be grateful and appreciate much for the good and strong initiatives of several youths of Niigata who, without any suggestion from our side, decided to organise such a gathering.

Around 20 people gathered together, though it was very difficult to say the exact number of the participants since some had to leave early or came late for their "ARUBAITO (a part time job)".

A group from Narashino joined the gathering since the parish priest of Niigata, Fr.Ebe, used to be a parish priest of Narashino.

On Friday evening after supper which had been prepared by themselves, I gave a talk on Africa, especially about my mission experience in Ghana and Rwanda. Thoughout the entire morning of Saturday, they had a sharing session on their life experiences. Mr.Masaya Takahashi from Yonezawa who has been working in Cambodia as a lay missionary sent by JLMM joined the group and shared his mission experience. Then Mass was said by Fr.Sakamoto, assistant parish priest with songs accompanied by guitars. The group attended Sunday Mass with the community of Niigata Cathedral and, after the Mass, Mr. Takahashi gave a talk on his mission in Cambodia for those gathered in the Cathedral. (Photo above: The sharing session by the youth)

I hope and pray that these young people will continue to meet regularly and deepen their friendship and faith so that they could be the future leaders of our Church in Niigata.

Aug 21, 2009

The challenger

The volume four of a serious magazine featuring several interviews of local people who are active in Niigata area in many different fields titled "LIFE-mag" has finally off the press. This morning, I was happened to be in a book store, "Hokko-sha" in Furumachi area and found the magazine. Happy to see the volume four. I myself had been interviewed by the editor and the article appeared in the volume three. After the publication of the volume three, I had a chance to go out for dinner with the editor who told me that the volume four was on the way to be published. Since then, I was waiting for the magazine with a bit of anxiety because the editor, Mr.Hiroki Kobayashi, a soft-spoken gentle young man, is also a publisher, a cameraman and everything of his company. Yes. he is a lone hand to challenge impossible. I could not believe that he has been trying to publish such an interview magazine all by himself when he came to see me first time. But he has managed to reach the volume four. Wow! I would be one of his faithful readers as I love these young challengers.

If you are interested in the magazine, find it in Hokko-sha in Furumachi or Junku-do near the JR Niigata station. A copy of the magazine costs 500 Yen. (Photo above: the cover of the volume 4.)

By the way, Catholic youth of Niigata area are camping in Niigata parish from this afternoon till Sunday morning. There are more than 20 youth including several from Narashino where Fr.Ebe used to be a parish priest. This evening I gave a talk on Africa. Tomorrow morning, they will have a sharing session and Mass together. I will report it with a photo tomorrow.

Aug 19, 2009

IX FABC Plenary Assembly ended

The IX Plenary Assembly of FABC (Federation of Asian Bishop's Conferences) which was held in the Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila from 10 to 16 August ended successfully. The assembly which was under the theme of "Living the Eucharist in Asia" was attended by 117 participants including 75 bishops from all over Asia, which is divided into East, South East, South and Central. Out of these 75 bishops, there were 7 Cardinals, namely Cardinal Arinze, President emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments who had been sent by Holy Father as his special envoy, Cardinal Vidal of Cebu, Cardinal Toppo of Ranchi, Cardinal Man of Ho Chi Minh, Cardinal Rosales of Manila, Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong, and Cardinal Gracias of Mumbai. Also present was Archbishop Sarah, Secretary of the Propaganda Fide.

Each member bishop's conferences are entitled to send the president and 2 or more delegates according to their size. CBCJ (Catholic Bishop's Conference of Japan) was represented by Archbishop Okada, the president, Bishop Oshikawa and myself. Among other participants, there were bishops from Hong Kong, Mongolia, East Timor, Uzbekistan and Nepal who are associate members of the FABC. Also representative bishops from USCCB (USA), FCBCO(Oceania), CCCB(Canada), ACBO(Australia) and CEE (Spain) joined the assembly.

To facilitate fruitful discussion on Eucharist, a working document had been prepared well before the assembly by a Theological team led by Bishop Luis Tagle of Imus to which each Bishop's Conferences were asked to submit their opinions. Based on these opinions, the document was revised and re-written by Bishop Tagle on which we made 10 minutes interventions from each Bishop's Conferences. From Japan, we mentioned about the social hardships people are facing at present in Japan which forces many to commit suicide, more than 30,000 a year according to the government sources, and possibility of providing "Hope" to these people through the Eucharist.

Re-written and finalised document by Bishop Tagle will be presented to the Central Committee in November for approval and will be published later on as the FABC document.

The assembly also produced a 2 page message in which delegates say that in the Eucharist, " the God of unity comes to permeate and envelope our life, personal and societal, bringing the gift of union with him and with one another." Then, "love made perfect in self-sacrifice by Jesus, and renewed in the Eucharist, calls forth nothing less than a life-style of sacrificial love. " "Each and every Christian and every community must become what they celebrate: unity in diversity."

The message also mentions importance of listening of Word of God. It says "we cherish the Eucharist, for in it we receive the Word of life and light that opens our eyes and the Bread of life that warms up our hearts. The unity of the Word and Bread in the Eucharist invite us to treasure and live both these aspects."

Finally the message call people to go out for mission saying "we are convinced that meaningful, contemplative, experiential and prayerful celebration of the Eucharist has the potential to render the Christian communities of Asia powerful witnesses of Jesus, witnesses who are bearers of his presence, his love, and his healing power." (photo above is the conference room of the Pius XII Catholic Center)

Aug 9, 2009


Today, 9 August is a memorial day for the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. So in Nagasaki this morning, the Peace Memorial Ceremony was held in the Peace Park which is near the Cathedral, Urakami church. In fact, epicenter of the atomic bombing is just next to the Cathedral which was also destroyed completely with several faithful inside on the day.

Peace message delivered by Mr. TAUE, mayor of Nagasaki was moving. He referred to the speech by President Obama in Prague last April and urge world leaders to visit Nagasaki in order to understand the reality of destruction and after effects of the nuclear weapon.

Ms.Okumura who was just 8 years old when the bomb killed all other members of her family of nine also gave her testimony during the ceremony. She was left alone with severe burn wounds. She mentioned her experience as experience of living through Hell. Her testimony and pledge for peace was very strong.

Prime minister Aso looked a bit tired because of the general election campaign which is going on till 30 August but he spoke well about the new commitment of his government to save victims of the bombing.

Then H.E. Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, M.M who is the president of the 63rd General Assembly of UN delivered his message. As a priest, though I do not know his present canonical status, he apologised to the people that Catholic had been involved in the bombing.

It might be very difficult and probably unrealistic to eliminate all nuclear weapons at once. But unless a small step forward is made by someone, nothing will happen either. So I hope the message from President Obama would be the force behind to let the world leaders to make historic decision to make a step forward to realise a dream of many.

I will be away to Manila from tomorrow to attend the 9th General Assembly of FABC with Archbishop Okada and Bishop Oshikawa. I will be back on 17 so that the next post will be after 18. (Photo above; Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki which was rebuilt at the same spot of the destroyed one)

Aug 7, 2009

The summer festival season has arrived

The summer festival season has arrived in Niigata. Starting from today, Friday the 7th August till Sunday, 9th August, people in Niigata city enjoys annual Niigata Festival. In fact, while festivals in general are to associated with religion or originated from religious activities, Niigata Festival doesn't bring taste of religion too much. According to the official home page of the festival, very first Niigata Festival was held in 1955 combining 4 traditional festivals, namely SUMIYOSHI festival, Local business festival, opening the river Shinano festival and the opening the Niigata port festival.

The SUMIYOSHI festival has origin in Sumiyoshi shrine. It started in 1726 as the festival for ship merchant in Niigata.

The opening the river Shinano festival started in 1910 after the city suffered 2 big fire. Main feature of this festival was HANABI, sky rocket fireworks, which is still the main feature of the Niigata Festival on Sunday evening.

Other 2 festivals still remain as MINYO NAGASHI, traditional dancing with Japanese folk songs which is held on Friday night. Almost 3 km long main street of Niigata is blocked and plenty teams by citizens dance with MINYO, the traditional folk songs. (Photo above. MIKOSHI, movable shrine in front of a department store in Niigata waiting for the festival to begin.)

This morning, we had quite heavy rain in Niigata area. It is unusual to have such heavy rain in August in Niigata. Weather is changing. Sanjo parish was flooded by rain water, though it did not reach the floor level, according to Fr.Ishiguro, the parish priest. The property of the parish is quite lower than main road in front and entire rain water from the road always attacks the parish. We may have to do something to prevent water to come in.

Past few days, several famous people are arrested or under investigation on charge of drug possession or use. Drug addiction is becoming a big headache in Japan and the organisation like DARC is really needed though not so many people understand its importance. We would like to support their activities, and also activities of MAC.

Aug 5, 2009

Akita MAC center, destroyed by fire

Akita MAC center has been destroyed by fire yesterday afternoon. MAC is the center for providing support for recovery from alcohol addiction and number of centers have been established all over Japan. MAC stands for Maryknoll Alcoholic Center which was established by a Maryknoll missionary in Japan in 1978. Because of its roots in Catholic mission, Church has been supporting its activities since their establishment. Bishop Satoh, my predecessor established Niigata MAC in Nagaoka city as NPO (non profit organisation) in 2001. Last year in February, the leader of the Niigata MAC decided to establish one in Akita. Through understanding and assistance from Catholic community in Akita district, Akita MAC has managed to secure a house as their home base and has been recognised by government as the NPO (non profit organisation) with Mr. Ishizaki, a member of Tsuchizaki parish as their chairman.

According to Mr. Ishizaki, the house which has been accommodating 6 people at this moment was completely damaged by fire. Fortunately no one was injured. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Kindly remember Akita MAC in your prayer and please be generous to support them to recover their home base. (Photo above is the parish church of AKITA. I do not have a photo of Akita MAC.)

Aug 2, 2009

The "KA-SHO-REN" successfully ended the assembly

The 10th National Assembly of the "KA-SHO-REN", Catholic Association of Disabled Persons of Japan has successfully ended this afternoon at Niigata Sogo Fukushi Kaikan, the social welfare center run by Niigata city. It was attended by more than 250 people from all over Japan. Ms.Mieko NAKAHARA has been re-elected as their chairperson while Nagoya city has been chosen to host next National Assembly in 2012. The good attendance was due to high participation from local parishes in Niigata. Thank you so much for every one who joined the assembly and also those who sacrificed so much time to prepare for the function.

Rev.Fr. Nobuo Masakawa, CMF gave really moving talk based on his own life history and mystery of his own vocation. He experienced discrimination while he was a kid especially in primary school but, he said, he had never been discriminated in church community and that experience in church community was the foundation of his vocation in later years. He went through so many difficult times before he finally decided to enter the seminary but he had been so many times encouraged by his Mother who always accepted him as he was. He said " do not just encourage those who are in crisis but accept them as they are".

After completing all scheduled function yesterday, we shared a meal and joy together for the evening. Since transferring all the participants to other place was difficult, we decided to take a "lunch box" for our dinner at the same spot. Also as the regulation of public facility prohibits anyone to consume alcoholic beverages, we did not offer any beer last night. However, even without a glass of beer, people were so happy to sing and dance together to strengthen their friendship.

To conclude the assembly, thanksgiving Mass was offered this morning which was presided by myself with 7 priests. Thanks a million for those who traveled all the way to Niigata and also for those who spent so much time to prepare for the function. (Photo above is the the assembly hall of the Fukushi-kaikan with a hand made banner of blessed 188 martyrs of Japan by Mr. Morita of Shibata parish who was the master of entertainment.)

Jul 31, 2009

The "KA-SHO-REN" to meet in Niigata

The "KA-SHO-REN", Catholic Association of Disabled Persons of Japan is organising their 10th National Assembly from tomorrow to Sunday in Niigata. The venue is Niigata Sogo Fukushi Kaikan, the social welfare center run by Niigata city, which is near the JR Niigata station. Main theme of the assembly is "Realising the Reign of God through our daily life - depart from isolation to trust". The assembly will begin with a lecture by Rev.Fr. Nobuo Masakawa, CMF at 1 pm on Saturday and will close with Mass at 10:30 am on Sunday which will be presided by myself.

More than 200 people are expected to attend the function including disabled persons themselves and other volunteers to support them. Catholic doctors and nurses in Niigata are also joining the function to be ready to help. According to the committee member in Niigata, it has been very difficult to meet the requests from central office of the association since gathering volunteers in Niigata is comparatively not so easy like big cities such as Tokyo which had hosted last assembly 3 years ago. It was expected that the assembly would provide a turning point for Niigata to start organising a local association for disabled persons. I really have to thank all these members of the committee to prepare for the function with limited resources. Also I pray for the blessing of Almighty Father for the success of this 2-days assembly.