Jul 27, 2010

Preparing to visit Ghana

I am visiting Ghana from 29 July to 12 August.  Therefore, a new post for this blog will not appear till 13 August since I will not carry my laptop for this trip.  Main purpose of the trip will be attending the ordination Mass for SVD priests in Accra on 7 August.  Most probably I will be honored to preside over the ordination Mass for the Ghana Province of the Divine Word Missionaries, SVD.  What is so special for this ordination of priests in Ghana this year which attracts me to travel all the way from Japan?  One of the ordinands, Frt. Martin Akwetey Dumas is originally from Osonson, Krobo.  While I was a parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Osonson from 1987 to 1994,  Frt. Martin was a small boy, probably in primary or middle school, and one of the most active member of the Osonson Alter Boys.  His father, Mr. Dumas used be one of the chief catechists of the parish and contributed a lot especially in my parish office to keep records of sacraments and to issue baptismal cards.  Quite a number of former alter boys from Osonson at that time tried to join the priesthood but no one so far had managed to be ordained before Frt. Martin.  Please remember him and his family in your prayer.  He will preside over his first Mass in Osonson on 8 August and I will give a homily.

Last week I was in Hokkaido for a week.  On Saturday, 24 July, from 3 to 5 pm, I gave a talk on Africa in Kitaichijo Church in Sapporo.  The talk was organised by the Justice and Peace Committee of the Sapporo diocese as part of the several activities for the Peace commemoration weeks in Japan which will concluded with Peace Memorial Mass on 15 August, the day when Japanese government declare to surrender to allied forces in 1945.

Prior to the talk on Saturday, I visited north east of Hokkaido with Fr. Kato, the chancellor and reached Shiretoko Peninsula, the world natural heritage site.  Photo above is taken in the peninsula with Ezo deer and Mt.Rausu in background.  It was quite cold in that part of Japan though most of Japan was suffering of heat wave during the week.  Because of the drastic difference of the temperature, I caught cold and experienced prolonged high fever.  So with these symptoms of cold during very hot summer, I could feel that Japan is so widely spread from north to south.

Please remember Frt. Martin in your prayer and also pray for me so that I will fulfill my sacred duty as a bishop well and return home safe and sound.  So see you on 13 August and have a blessed and hot summer.      

Jul 16, 2010

The 3rd anniversary of the earthquake in Kashiwazaki area

Today, 16 July, is the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake in Kashiwazaki area.  The quake is called "Chuetsu-oki Jishin" which took 15 peoples lives and more than 1,300 houses were completely destroyed. Parish in Kashiwazaki under the pastoral care of the OFM Fathers was also affected by the quake.  Since the parish priest, Fr. Bassi who built the church is an architect, the church building was not so much affected but the kindergarten building was.  Number of Catholic members were also affected at that time.  During the early stage of recovery, the Parish community organised themselves to offer lunch and other services from the Kindergarten garage to the local people who had lost everything.  The community did very well.  Since then, the local government did very well to execute the recovery programme and local people cooperated well including the Parish community.  As we are hearing the news of severe rain fall and flood in several places in Japan for past few days, I do remember all those who have been affected by these natural disasters in my prayer.  (Photo above; a destroyed temple.  This temple has been restored recently)

By the way, the year 2010 is the 100th anniversary of birth of Mather Teresa of Calcutta and there will be the Mother Teresa Film Festival in all over Japan organized by local organising committee.  Though Catholic Church is not the main force to organise these events, the Japanese Bishops Conference is fully supporting the event.  And from 24 July to 6 August, the festival is coming to Niigata.  The venue is the "Cine Wind" in Bandai area in Niigata.  From 24 to 30 July,  the show will begin at 10 am and end at 6:20 pm with 6 shows (films).  From 31 July to 6 August, the show will begin at 2:30 pm and end at 5:45 pm with 2 shows (films).  A ticket for each show will cost JPY 1,200.  I am not so sure but you may need 6 tickets to complete the 6 shows if you wish to stay for a whole day.  You might find more detailed information in your own parish centers.

Jul 8, 2010

Mass at Hokusanbara in Yonezawa

Blessed Peter Kibe and his companions, all together 188 blessed martyrs of Japan, was once again commemorated this year on and around 1st July, their feast day, in various locations in Japan including  Yonezawa where 53 of them had been executed during the persecution period.  More than 100 faithful, mainly from parishes in Yamagata district, gathered together in Hokusanbara where Blessed Luis Amakasu and 52 companions were executed on 12 January, 1629 to join the Holy Eucharist celebrated by 4 priests and myself.  Last year May, we had the first celebration after their beatification in November 2008 in Nagasaki.  More than 900 people came to join the celebration in May and we had to ask permission from city government of Yonezawa and police department to close the surrounding streets to let people stand and join the Mass.  We have decided not to invite so many people this year so that neighbours would allow us to continue this celebration for many more years.  After so many years since the Samurai era in Japan, though the Church had managed to purchase part of the former execution ground of Hokusanbara, the place has been developed and now have been surrounded by private houses where no Catholics are living at all.  So we have to negotiate with the local community before we proceed to plan our own celebration in Hokusanbara.  Most probably, we might plan much more grand celebration every 5 years or so to invite pilgrims from all over the diocese.

July is rainy season in Japan and we were worried about the weather on Sunday, 4th July.  It was raining on Saturday.  However, as we started the Mass at 11 am on 4th July, Sunday, we were blessed be under beautiful sunshine.  Thank God for this blessing.  In fact, it started to rain by the time we all finished Mass and lunch.

After the Mass, people were divided into 6 or so groups to have lunch together and continue with sharing session on several themes related to evangelisation in Japan.  There are 5 communities in Yamagata district, Yonezawa, Yamagata, Nagai, Tsuruoka and Sakata.  Then one community is now emerging from Shinjo.  Shinjo community is mainly by Filipino Catholics and their children.  In fact, through generous assistance from many and through their own efforts, the Shinjo community are now building their own Church.  Thank God for this blessing.  Though Yamagata district is not so big, people are scattered around and are able to meet only once a while.  So that the sharing session after the lunch was really inspiring for many.  I would like to thank especially for the members of Yonezawa for their effort to prepare for the celebration.  Lunch box which they chose and bought was wonderful.  Thank you.  Though the community of Yonezawa is not so big, they are trying very well to keep the tradition inherited from Martyrs of Yonezawsa and maintaining good spirits.

Jul 2, 2010

Sapporo diocese priests assembly

The beginning of last month, June, priests assembly or rally for Niigata was held in Akita for 3 days.  Now it is the turn of Sapporo diocese and 41 priests and a brother working in the Sapporo diocese had gathered together in Hanakawa, an hour drive from central Sapporo, for their annual priests assembly for 3 days from 28 to 30 June.  There were diocesan priests, Maryknoll missionaries, Paris missionaries, Jesuit and Franciscans.  In fact, territory wise, Franciscans are taking care of majority of territories of the dioceses.  Diocesan priests who are not so many in numbers are much more concentrated in the Sapporo area.

I joined the gathering as the apostolic administrator and also as a lecture.  On the second day, the feast day of St Peter and Paul, I gave an talk for 2 hours on my experience in Ghana and Rwanda as a missionary.  The chairman of the priest council, Fr. Katsuya, had asked me to give a talk on building  the Small Christian Community since I had translated a book "The Small Christian Communities" a few years ago and was a member of formation team in Nagoya diocese.  However, my experience as the member of that formation team in Nagoya and as a bishop of Niigata, I now have other idea to build a parish community in Japanese Church.  So I just shared my experience in my parish in Ghana and talked about the basics of building community which we can learn from foreign assistance activity of Church through Caritas.  I have been working for Caritas Japan since 1995 and, at this moment, serving as the president for the 2nd term.  My experience in Caritas tells me that the assitance given by Caritas is quite connected with community building from which Church may learn a lot.  

Then in the evening of 29, we invited Bishop Jinushi, the emeritus bishop of Sapporo who was celebrating his names day for Peter, to have BBQ dinner together.  Photo above is Bishop Jinushi receiving gift.  It was a very hot day.  They told me that usually in the end of June should be cool and fine, but for this year it was completely strange.

I flew from Sapporo to Tokyo on Wednesday to attend 2 meetings in the Bishops Conference on Thursday and I am in Sendai this evening.  I have to give a talk on Africa tomorrow at Sendai Shirayuri University for their adult education class.  Then I will drive down to Yonezawa.  Since 1st July is the feast day for Blessed 188 martyrs of Japan and 53 are from Yonezawa, we are going to have the memorial Mass in Yonezawa on Sunday at 11 am.  Come and join us in Hokusanbara, the place where 53 Blessed were martyred in 1629.