Apr 30, 2010

Fr. Mitsumori passed away

Rev. Father Francis de Sales Taizo MITSUMORI, the very first Japanese diocesan priest of Niigata, passed away yesterday morning in Niigata at age of 92. A native of Akita, Fr.Mitsumori studied theology in Rome before the WW II and ordained a priest in 1944 in Rome. Because of the war, he could not return to Japan till 1946. As a pioneer Japanese diocesan priest, Fr.Mitsumori immediately became a strong helping hand for several apostolic prefects of Niigata and, from 1962, Bishop Ito who was appointed as the first bishop of newly established Niigata diocese. Fr. Mistumori was a parish priest of the Niigata Cathedral for many years. He retired from active ministry in 2003 at age of 85. I spent sometime with him since he was living in the house behind the bishop's residence for his retirement. We ate together and prayed togeher for sometime. He spent his last 2 years in a retirement house in Aoyama.

Wake keeping will be on 30 April at 7 pm in Niigata Cathedral. Funeral Mass will be celebrated on 1 May at 10 am in Niigata Cathedaral. Kindly remember Father Mitsumori in your prayer. R.I.P.

Apr 25, 2010

Confirmation in Kamo

Today, on the Good Shepherd Sunday, I visited the Christ the Redeemer Parish in Kamo, Niigata for confirmation of 3 people. Since the parish priest, Fr. Tsutomu Sato has been in charge of 2 parishes, Kamo and Shirone, those who received the sacrament today were from both communities, 2 from Kamo and one from Shirone. The Catholic community in Kamo which is 44 years old this year has around 30 regular Sunday Mass attendance. Among them are several members from Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Good Shepherd is calling us to follow him. In the gospel today, Jesus said that " my sheep listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me". His voice is telling us our mission in this life. In fact that is our vocation. We have to try to listen to his voice to discern what we have to pursue in our life.

After the Mass, all the members who attended today's Mass gathered together in a hall for a small party to congratulate those who had received the confirmation. Small community like Kamo has certain advantage to build a strong community. Since there are not so many members, each one of them could know each other very well. So the gathering after Mass today was just like a family gathering.

Apr 19, 2010

Confirmation in Kashiwazaki

Yesterday, on the third Sunday of Easter, 13 people received the sacrament of Confirmation in St.Anthony of Padua Parish in Kashiwazaki, 130km south of Niigata. The parish priest, Fr. Leo Bassi, ofm, though he is already over 80 years old, is one of the most energetic and hard working missionaries in my diocese. As far as I remember, he prepares quite good number of candidates for the sacrament every year. Among these 13 members who received the confirmation yesterday, majority are kids in Junior High Schools, which means they are around 13 to 15 years old. Also among these kids, there are children of Japanese, Filipino and Sri Lankan mothers. Quite international, as usual in my diocese. Particularly for these kids in schools in Japan, attending Mass on Sundays require extra super efforts since school usually organises the Sunday extra curriculum activities such as sports games for their students. So I have to congratulate Fr. Bassi and his team of catechists for their effort to anchor these kids to the Church activities firmly.

For the homily of the confirmation Masses, I have been talking about the meaning of being a mature Catholic. In fact, it is quite difficult to define the actual picture of "maturity" of the person in Catholic faith. I guess there are 3 points to think about.

First and most, and this would be the foundation of our faith, attaining reality in our faith would be the crucial point. We do not believe in Jesus who is in our imagination, nor in a history legend. We do believe in Jesus who is alive. Presence of Jesus has to be real, not a fiction.

Then, based on that reality, we form our faith through the tradition of Catholic teachings. So we have to be acquainted with, say, Catholic Catechism and traditional practice of the Church. Then the third point would be the liturgy. Without celebrating our faith in our community through the liturgy, our faith would be dead. I hope and pray that those who received the sacrament yesterday are ready to be a mature Catholic who feels the real presence of Jesus, learn more about our faith and happy to celebrate the faith with their community in liturgy.

Apr 14, 2010

A-bombed statue of B.V.M. goes to NY in May

The so-called "HIBAKU MARIA", a remain of a statue of the Immaculate Conception in former Cathedral of Nagasaki which was completely destroyed and burned by A-bomb on 9 August, 1945 is going to New York in May and will meet the Secretary General of UN, Mr. Ban Ki-moon on 3 May. The statue, now remains only as a burnt head, was found under the rubble of destroyed Cathedral by Fr.Noguchi of Hakodate Trappist who visited the site upon his return from the World War II in October, 1945. In 2005, a small chapel was erected next to the present Cathedral in Urakami, Nagasaki to commemorate 60th anniversary of bombing of Nagasaki to pray for world peace without any nuclear weapons. Archbishop of Nagasaki, Archbishop Joseph Takami, a survivor of the A-bomb, will bring the statue to meet Mr. Ban and others in New York. Prior to the trip to New York, Archbishop will make a pilgrimage with the statue to Guernica to pray for world peace. (Photo above; 3 archbishops of Japan. Archbishop Takami, far left.)

In February, Archibishop Takami and Bishop Misue of Hiroshima made an appeal to world leaders to seriously think about the nuclear weapon free world. (Link to the English version of the message by 2 bishops.) Bishops were prompted to issue the message since the NPT review conference will be held in May. Both Japan and Vatican officials in UN suggested the Archbishop to visit the UN after the trip to Guernica.

Apr 12, 2010

The TESTIGOS performed in Murakami

A Catholic musical, I may say so with full confidence, the "TESTIGOS" has been performed in Murakami city, northern Niigata, on last Saturday afternoon for a general public. The musical was performed by a group from Nagoya called Xavier Angels Company led by an energetic Spanish young man who is a Catholic and a Japanese lady who is not a Catholic. The performance was organised by a local private school, Niigata University of Rehabilitation which was just established on 1st April this year as their commemorative activities for the beginning of the new school. The school is not a Catholic nor Christian school but the musical was 100% Catholic one and the faculty chose the performance knowing this is Christian performance. Yet, according to the president of the school corporation who is a psychiatrist, this performance represents what they have been after in their school formation; providing total relaxation to human body and soul.

The Xavier Angels Company was joined by a local dancing group and a choirs group. More than 600 people including a city mayor of Murakami came to witness this wonderful performance of 10 saints and great people of modern world. These 10 includes Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and St. Maximilian Kolbe. I was so amazed to see non-Christian people enjoying the performance which was filled by quite Catholic ideas, even calling people to be a witness of God. The last song depicting Pope JPII again and again tell the audience "do not be afraid". We should not be afraid to be a real witness of God. We should not be timid messenger of God who are afraid to present the message of God directly. These performers were teaching us important attitude we should make our own.
The Xavier Angels Company will perform the TESTIGOS during the World Expos in Shanghai. God bless their activities.

Apr 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Dear brothers and sisters. Happy Easter !

I hope you also experienced wonderful and spiritually enriched Holy Week. Past few days, Niigata experienced miserable weather of cold winter and the news stories on TV of cheery blossom in elsewhere in Japan seemed like stories of another world. Yet, today, we had a wonderful, beautiful and warm spring day for the Easter celebration, though the cherry blossom is yet to arrive in Niigata.

For today's main Mass at 9:30 am in Niigata Cathedral, around 200 people joined the celebration. During the Mass, a baby girl was baptised. It is good to witness a baptism of new born baby during the Easter celebration. It gives us a real feeling of beginning of new life.

After the Mass, a party was held in a parish hall in which I sung several songs with piano and the parish priest, Fr.Ebe gave a performance of his favorite Japanese flute, Shakuhachi.

Apr 1, 2010

Holy Thursday in Niigata

The Holy Triduum has began and today is the Holy Thursday, a day to commemorate the last supper and the institution of the Holy Communion by Lord Jesus himself. In Niigata diocese, the Chrism Mass has been celebrated on Tuesday and for Sapporo diocese, it was on Wednesday so that majority of priests working in both dioceses were able to join the celebration for them. Some of them had to travel more than 300 km to attend the Mass with their Bishop.

The Mass on Holy Thursday in Niigata was presided by myself at 7 pm today in Niigata Cathedral. Because of aging society in Japan, especially in Niigata city center, attendance of evening liturgy in Niigata has been decreasing for past few years. This evening, though the liturgy is quite important for our spiritual life since the Holy Communion is the center pillar of our Christian faith, we had around 100 faithful to join the liturgy.

After the homily, following the example of the Lord Jesus himself, we had a liturgy of washing feet. I could see that the parish priest had difficulty to find 12 men to be washed. By the way, I remember my days in a parish in Ghana, especially during special liturgy. I will not forget my first experience of the Holy Thursday in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Osonson, Krobo in 1988. When I approached Mr. Amerkudji, then the parish president, he suddenly said it loud that, "Lord do not wash my feet". I did not know how to reply. They were expecting me to enact the scene in the Gospel. What I remember was myself standing in front of my parishioners not knowing what to do next. Good old memory.

By the way in Niigata this evening, quite a number of people stayed in the crypt after the Mass to spend sometime in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The adoration continued till 10 pm.

There will be the Good Friday liturgy at 7 pm tomorrow and the Easter vigil on Saturday at 7 pm. Join us in Niigata Cathedral.