Jul 9, 2009

KG and Catholic Church

As if they were created together from the beginning, kindergartens are quite naturally seen together with Catholic parishes in various dioceses in Japan, especially in Niigata diocese. Why? In early times of mission activities in remote or rural area in Japan such as Niigata, Church leaders thought that KGs could provide missionaries both opportunity to meet with local people and also sufficient income. Bishops in these days might have recommended their priests to be directors of KGs and receive salaries from KGs since dioceses were not financially strong at that time. It worked so well until recently.

In Japan, kindergartens are under the Ministry of Education and Science and day-care centers are under the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which means the KGs are considered as institutions for education. Though the religious corporation could run KGs without receiving government subsidies, the Ministry recommends that they should be under the school corporation which receives government subsidies. Being under the Ministry as educational institute and receiving government money means certain amount of public responsibility. Now a days, running KGs requires professional knowledge and experiences as the educator. Priestly ordination does not grants priest faculty and quality to be an educator at once. More over, number of priests are not increasing in most of our dioceses in Japan. So it has been very difficult to maintain our commitment to running KGs as diocesan educational institutes. At the same time, income from KGs are still supporting quite many priests since financial standing of most of rural dioceses in Japan are very weak.

On 7 July, after the monthly gathering of diocesan priests in Niigata, a meeting of KG directors of kindergartens under the SEIBO school corporation which runs 17 Catholic kindergartens within Niigata prefecture. Fr.Kawasaki, VG of the diocese is the president of the school corporation and I as the vice president. It has been becoming very difficult to find enough priests to become KG directors any more. Several priests are already holding the post in 2 KGs at the same time. We have to find the best way to choose successor from lay teachers of our KGs very soon. Most probably, in near future, our Catholic KGs in the diocese may not have any priests as their directors. That would create another headaches for the diocese namely insufficient income to pay salary to priests and loosing the best opportunity to meet local people. Also we have to find the way how to maintain Catholic identities of these institutes without priests being their directors. Or we may have to have complete change of our mind for the direction of our mission activities in Japan. (Photo above. One of our KGs in Niigata diocese)

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