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.)