Feb 24, 2010

Spring has come, almost, to Sapporo

I have been in Sapporo since Sunday evening till Saturday to participate in several activities of Sapporo diocese. First of all, there was a gathering of Priests working in Sapporo area in Hanakawa from Monday morning to Tuesday morning. Last time in Hanakawa, we had a serious study session on the Canon Law and my mind was completely occupied by the heavy marriage cases. This time, we had a meeting of sharing information. After the meeting, we could even go to Onsen, a hot spring, near by the Sisters' house where we stayed. From Onsen, we had wonderful view of sea.

Then I participated in a meeting of Caritas Sapporo yesterday. As a president of Caritas Japan, I know that only a handful of diocese has actual diocesan Caritas structures and Sapporo is one of them. The diocese organises special collections for the diocesan Caritas which, in turn, effectively utilises the fund to support several social activities in the diocese, though the amount is not so big.

This evening, I was invited by the staff members of the Caritas Family Support Center which has been established and run by a Catholic social worker who used to work in a former Catholic hospital in Sapporo. The diocese supports the activity by sending 2 social workers to the center. The center extends their helping hands to any issue which threaten human life and their activities are based on the Gospel value. In 2008, there were more than 1100 cases of consultation, not only from those who are in Hokkaido but from all over Japan. As usual with these activities in Japan, they are short of funds to support their activities. I think they have to put more time for communication to let more people know their activities which is very important for modern Japanese society so that they may receive more financial supports.

Tomorrow, there will be a diocesan consultors meeting in Sapporo and on Friday and Saturday, I will take part in the seminar organised by the Commission for Migrants and Itinerary People in Sapporo. (Photo above is the Cathedral of Sapporo Diocese, Kita-Ichijo Church)

Feb 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Now it is Lent again. Today is the Ash Wednesday and you might have attended Mass to receive ash on your head. If not, no worries, you may receive it during next Sunday Mass in your parishes. Ash reminds us that we are created out of ash and we will return to it when we die. We have to realize that we are just small creatures in front of eyes of God. This is the time to be humble before God who created us and return to him. Caritas Japan has started the Lenten Campaign. You may contribute through your local parishes for the campaign. Alms giving and helping poor and needy during the Lent is the good tradition of Catholic faith. You are also encouraged to join the tradition. Caritas Japan also prepared a booklet called "TSUNAGU" to be your help to reflect and meditate on each Sundays during the Lent. One of the articles in the booklet, titled "The Church Coexisting With People of Various Nationalities: A Wish Of The Priest Who Supports And Works For Migrant Workers" has been translated into English which can be found in the HP of Caritas Japan.

I attended today's Mass for Ash Wednesday in Tokyo with other Japanese Bishops together with entire staff members of the CBCJ, Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan. We are attending the General Assembly of Bishops in Japan from Monday to Friday. Today's Mass was presided over by Bishop Umemura of Yokohama who is the chairman of the liturgical committee. Liturgy is one of the most important agenda for the GA since we are working on the new Japanese translation of the Roman Missal for quite sometime.

Tokyo is cold and weather forecast tells us that we may have snow in Tokyo tonight. Keep warm!

Feb 11, 2010

Thank you, Bishop Jinushi.

Thanksgiving Mass was celebrated on 7, Sunday at 3:30 pm in Sapporo Cathedral to show our gratitude to Bishop Peter Toshio Jinushi, bishop emeritus of Sapporo. Holy Father accepted the resignation of Bishop Jinushi on 17 November, 2009. Cathedral was packed by so many well-wishers from all over the diocese of Sapporo. I presided over the Mass as an apostolic administrator of the diocese. After the Mass, a small but friendly and warm party was organised by the laity council in the parish kindergarten hall.

Then there was a priest representative's meeting of Sapporo on Monday which used to be the Priests' council. When a diocesan bishop retires, then a priests' council is also dissolved. So at this moment there is no priests' council existing in Sapporo diocese, however, we need some sort of organisation to discuss and decide about diocesan activities among priests. That is why I decided to call the priest representatives' meeting.

Because of heavy snow in Niigata and the airport had been closed for 3 days, I could not reach Sapporo by scheduled flight on Saturday. So I went down to Tokyo by train and took a flight from Haneda to Sapporo on Sunday morning. Since snow subsided a bit, I was able to travel back to Niigata on Monday by an Air Do (Hokkaido International Air) flight. It's not easy to move around during winter season in Niigata and Sapporo.

Feb 10, 2010

Schok wave from Vladivostok Air

Based on the fact that the 2-weekly direct flight between 2 cities takes less than 2 hours and 2 cities had established friendship agreement since 1965, the Catholic Diocese of Niigata decided to establish an exchange program with the Catholic parish in Khabarovsk. We have sent several delegations from Niigata for past 2 years and received visitors from Khabarovsk. In fact, we are planning a summer exchange program for youth in August. Then lo and behold, a bad news from the airline was announced yesterday of reducing frequency of the flight from twice a week to once a week. At present, there are 2 flights between Niigata and Khabarovsk on Mondays and Fridays. According to the announcement, from April this year, there will be only one flight on Wednesdays. Why? Because the Vladivostok Air which has been operating the flight between Niigata and Khabarovsk decided to operate twice a week charter flights between Narita and Khabarovsk for 2010 summer schedule. I do understand the decision of the company. It must be very much attractive for them to shift the airport from this small town, Niigata to the megalopolis, Tokyo. However, I think Narita will not be the best choice for the year-round operation for the flight between Japan and Khabarovsk. It has been said by many but distance from downtown Tokyo is too far, or Narita is too big for passenger, or sometimes it takes more than an hour to get out from the airport from touch down, or there are too few domestic connection to and from Narita. If the airline is after the big supply of tourist group, then Narita would be the best choice. But as far as I know, there are not so much demand for that kind of the passenger for the flight.

Any way, I just pray that the Vladivostok air will respect the history of friendship between 2 cities and do their best to retain this historical flight between Niigata and Khabarovsk so that we can also continue our exchange program between 2 local churches.

Feb 5, 2010

Niigata under heavy snow

Niigata city is completely covered by snow and transportation system is in mess.  According to the long-range weather forecast before this winter, it supposed to be a warm and less snow winter than average.  However, this heavy snowfall is already the 3rd heavy snowfalls of this winter.  Since today is the first Friday of the month and the feast day of St. Paul Miki and companions (26 martyrs of Japan),  Parish Priest and his associate, Fr.Ebe and Fr.Sakamoto, had to work hard to clear the accumulated snow in front of the Cathedral before 10 am Mass. 

Behind the Cathedral is a steep hill and snow removal service by the city government could not catch up the heavy snowfall which made a delivery vehicle got stuck.  Photo above is traffic jam created by the incident near our Cathedral.