May 30, 2010

Laity rally in Nagaoka

On this day of Holy Trinity Sunday, Nagaoka district's Laity Council organised annual rally in Omotemachi Parish in Nagaoka.  Nagaoka district consists of parishes in Itoigawa, Naoetsu, Takada, Myoko, Kashiwazaki, Tokamachi, Omotemachi and Fukuzumi and the district has been entrusted to Franciscans.  As for this years rally, the administratibe board of the Laity Council of the district chose "learn more about our Liturgy" as their theme and invited Fr. Shirahama, the liturgy professor of the Japan Catholic Seminary, for a talk.   For the 34th gathering of the laity in the district, Fr. Shirahama gave almost 2 hours intensive talk on the spirit of Liturgy which is thanksgiving to almost 200 people including all the pastors of the district.  Whenever we think about a study session on Liturgy, its all about regulations.  But Fr. Shirahama's talk was enlightening to understand what is behind all these liturgy in our Church. 

After lunch together, there was a photo session and a procession for Holy Mother, the Flores de Mayo.  Filipino community is quite large in the district and majority of kids are of theirs.  The gathering was really international.  After the procession from the kindergarten where we had talks and lunch to the Parish, we started Mass at 2 pm.  Readings and songs were prepared both in Japanese and English.  To create a community which overcomes both age and nationality barrier or cultural difference is one of the priorities of this diocese and I should say that the Nagaoka district is trying very hard to create communities of many cultures.  I hope they will continue their effort to build communities with one heart with many faces.

May 24, 2010

Pentecost in Tokamachi

Yesterday was the Pentecost Sunday and it was quite a windy day in Niigata. Well, it would be good to feel the blowing wind on the Pentecost Sunday so that we may be able to imagine how the Holy Spirit blew on the day among disciples. I went to Tokamachi to celebrate the Pentecost Sunday Mass with the community of the Assumption Parish. During the Mass, 3 people received the sacrament of confirmation and 2 kids received their first communion. Since the parish priest of Nagaoka, Fr. Bruno, ofm, visits Tokamachi after he completes Mass in Nagaoka, Sunday Mass in Tokamachi begins at 3 pm. As for yesterday, people started to gather together around 2 pm for the Flores de Mayo procession. Yes, majority of the community in Tokamachi Catholic Church is from Philippines who are married to local Japanese. So yesterday before Mass, several original Japanese Catholics, Filipino mothers, number of their Japanese husbands and their kids made a procession after the statue of Mary. What a international community. All together around 40 people went around inside the Kindergarten since the windy and rainy weather did not permit us to go out.

After the Mass, we went to the Kindergartens hall for a party. There were a dance by a boy who had received his first communion, games and good food. Fr. Bruno suggested mothers to let little ladies wear Yukata dress instead of the traditional white costume for first communion, etc. What impressed me the most was 2 Filipino mothers who wore Japanese traditional Kimono and gave a Japanese dance performance. They have been in Japan for many years and managed to immerse themselves deep into Japanese culture.

I am sure that there must be a lot of problem they face in building a united community for the Tokamachi Church with different nationalities and back grounds. Especially, at this moment, Japanese Catholics are minority in Tokamachi. I would like to ask each one of the community to be compassionate to each other and also try to understand differences of each culture.

May 17, 2010

Confirmation in Takada

Ascension day is celebrated on the seventh Sunday of Easter in Japan and, therefore, yesterday was the celebration. On that Sunday, 13 people received the sacrament of Confirmation in the Christ the King Parish in Takada. The parish priest, Fr. Mario Canducci, a Franciscan from Italy, always does his best to prepare candidates very well to receive the sacraments every year. Though he is over 75 and preparing for his golden jubilee of ordination this year, he is still energetic in his pastoral activities. I was happy to see several young faces among the 13 candidates yesterday. It will be quite difficult for young kids to continue to come to church after they enter high schools because of extra curriculum activities on Sundays. So Fr. Mario does his best to catch kids just before they are really involved in these activities to prepare for the confirmation. Though they will have difficulties to attend Sunday Masses, the memory of confirmation will remain in their heart, and one day, they may return to the community.

The Confirmation Mass was celebrated by myself, Fr. Mario, Fr. Takayabu, a resident priest and Fr. Ohtaki, the chancellor of the diocese. Fr. Ohtaki was originally baptized in Takada while he was a high school student and was visiting the area for the diocesan business. I hope more young people will follow good example of their senior brother of Takada, Fr. Ohtaki, and join the priesthood in near future. In this regard, I was happy to be with a young boy who performed his duty quite perfectly as a lone altar boy during the ceremony vested in his over sized cassock.

Congratulations for those 13 members who received the sacrament. I am also happy to see among them faces from several countries. God bless you all with his Holy Spirit.

May 9, 2010

Returned from Taiwan

FABC BILA meeting has been finished on Thursday evening with a closing Mass in near by parish in Taoyuan. Mass was attended by both participants of the meeting and local Catholics of the parish who organised a welcome party for us after the Mass. As the time-table of our meeting was so tight, I could not go out from the building where we stayed since our arrival on Monday. So it was good for us to have a chance to be away from the meeting site and be with local people. Also it was good occasion to know the talent of our participants to entertain others. Especially we are all amazed and enjoyed dancing performance of Korean group led by a Sister who is a wonderful dancer.

During the meeting, besides a talk by Bishop Tagle, Sr. Choi Hae Young, RSCJ, a provincial superior of RSCJ sisters in Korea, gave a talk on the title, "Mary, Model of discipleship in the Church." Also the drafting committee worked so hard that we could manage to complete the meeting with a wonderful final statement. The main objectives of the meeting was: to encourage the Church to look Mary as a woman who lived through many of the trying situations that women experience today, and to encourage women to draw courage and inspiration from her, and to provide for the continuing process of awareness of women's role and hence provide a guide to do this program in the home diocese of the participants. In many countries in East Asia, though the majority of the Church community are women, still decisions are made by men.How to encourage women to be involved in the decision making process in Church community would be one of the crucial point we have to seriously look into, including in my diocese.

On Friday, finally released from sitting in a meeting room, we went out to Taipei city for a day tour. Photo above is taken at our first stop, the Museum of World Religions which is run by Buddhist monks. The museum provides information on several major religions in the world and also invite visitors to find the meaning of meditation. A Buddhist nun gave us an introduction talk and invited us to join the vegetarian lunch in the museum cafeteria. In fact, we were surprised to see so many varieties of vegetarian dishes. It seems the cafeteria is also popular among local people. Also we visited the Taiwan National Women's Center after the museum.

Thanks for those who organised the meeting and thanks for our host in Taiwan.

May 6, 2010

Still from Taiwan

FABC meeting is still going on in Taiwan. Today is the final day and we are discussing on the final statement. Though we, East Asians, are quiet and polite to each other normally, we are having quite heated argument, or rather discussion on a draft of the statement. Theologians from India and Taiwan, of course women theologians, are guiding us through the discussion.

By the way, I forgot to mention about the BILA in yesterday's post. BILA stands for Bishops Institute for Lay Apostolate. Since FABC supposed to be a place of learning for bishops in Asia, several meetings are under the title of Bishops Institute so and so.

I just do not want to go into a simple stereotyping but I feel difference of atmosphere of this meeting from other Church meetings I have attended before. Maybe because this meeting is organised mainly by women. Besides several serious discussion sessions and lectures, there are time for prayer, meditation, singing and dancing. Prayer through dancing may not be employed by typical meeting organised mainly by men, right? Well, in any case, I am comfortable to be among these wonderful women in the meeting.

May 5, 2010

FABC BILA meeting in Taiwan

I have been in Taiwan since Monday afternoon to attend a meeting on women in East Asia organized by the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences) office of Laity and Family. It will last till Friday and I will return to Japan on Saturday evening. Japanese delegation is composed of 4 members, a sister, 2 lay women from Tokyo and myself. All together, more than 60 participants are present including several observers from Taiwan. Since the meeting is meant for East Asia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Macao and Hongkong have been duly represented including 4 bishops. The meeting has been held in St.Theresa Activity Center in Taoyuan city near the Taipei International Airport. Bishop John Lee, the local ordinary of the area, is hosting the function since he is also a member of the FABC office of Laity and Family. The president of the office, Bishop Roland Tirona from Philippines is also among us. The theme of the meeting is "Mary, Truly a Women of our times".

Yesterday, bishop Chito Tagle (photo above) of Imus gave a talk on the theme. Since he is one of the most celebrated speaker of Theological topics in Asia at this moment, many people came to the center to listen to his talks. As a former member of the Pontifical Theological Commission, of which Cardinal Ratzinger was the chairman, he presented quite rich and deep understanding of role of Mary and insight for modern world.

Tomorrow, we will discuss about our final statement and will celebrate evening Mass in local Parish.