Oct 31, 2010

This is the day, for Shinjo.

A Catholic community in Shinjo in Yamagata prefecture has finally acquired their own place of worship on Thursday, 28 October.  It took more than 9 years to make their dream come true.  According to the sharing by one of their leading members, when she had arrived in Shinjo area 22 years ago, she could find everything she needed for her life except a place of worship.  In the year 2001, Fr. Honma, then a parish priest of Tsuruoka decided to travel to Shinjo to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in a public facility and asked her to invite her friends to come for the Mass.  She went around the town to find her friends even during the shopping in a local supermarket.  When I first visited their community in 2005, I was actually surprised to know that so many of them were there.  The majority of the Catholic community in Shinjo are from Philippines.  In 80's and 90's, the local government invited Filipinos, Chinese and Korean ladies to come to Japan to be wives of local Japanese farmers.  In 2007, when I made yet another visit to the community, I asked them to count the actual number of Filipinos in the area and we found out that there are more than 100 residing.  They are not only wives but also mothers of many kids who had been baptised.  During that visit, the community expressed their desire to build their own Church.  I was skeptical.  The community did not have enough fund in their coffers.  There were, and even now, only 2 local Japanese members in the community of Shinjo.  So when they asked me about building their Church, I said "yes" but, in fact, I thought it would be just a dream.

But God has his own plan and he provided us everything what we needed.  In my 2009 pastoral letter, I asked the entire diocese to consider to support the Shinjo so that we might be able to build a Church by 2012 when the Niigata diocese celebrates its 100th anniversary.  But an abandoned private kindergarten building and its land was put on sale last year and the information was brought to the diocese by Fr. Honma, the parish priest of Yamagata and in charge of Shinjo.  Still I was in doubt since we did not have enough contribution at that time and the Niigata diocese is not so financially well-off with only 7,000 Catholics.  However, God has his own plan to be realised.  In my surprise, so many people and parish communities,including several individuals from other dioceses, made significant contributions and early this year, we managed to purchase the property.  Thank God.  It took 6 moths to refurbish the building to make a kindergarten to a church.  A significant contributions also made us able to purchase a wonderful set of stained glasses.

As Catholic Church in Japan does not have sufficient outposts in rural villages, the presence of so many Filipinos in the villages as wives and mothers are quite crucial for the evengelisation in Japan.  In fact, as I have been telling them, they are missionaries sent to Japan to be witness of the Word of God despite their different reasons to be in Japan.  God has his own plan to proclaim his good news in Japan.

Thank you for the effort made by the Shinjo community and support from other Catholic communities in the Niigata diocese.  I also thank all other people outside the diocese who has been supporting the Catholics in Shinjo.  Now is the time for the members in Shinjo, with 2 Japanese, many Filipinos and many more kids, to consider the Church as their "base" of the life and make long-term plan to maintain the building and develop the community.  We are always with you.  

Oct 19, 2010

SVD ordination of the class 2010 in Japan

On 16th October in the parish chapel of Nanzan Catholic Church in Nagoya, 4 SVD confreres were ordained priests for the Japan province of the Society of the Divine Word.  Originally, Bishop Nomura of Nagoya diocese was asked to be the main celebrant of the ordination Mass, however, sudden change of his schedule made him unable to join the celebration.  Therefore, I was asked to be there, at the last moment,  to ordain these 4 confreres.  Fortunately, I did not have any particular program on the ordination day, so that I was able to be in Nagoya for the ordination, though I could not join the celebration after the Mass in the evening.  After all, I am privileged to ordain all together 9 SVD confreres this year; 5 in Ghana and 4 in Japan.

All the 4 new priests were from countries other than Japan but they had been in Japan for quite sometime to complete their theology formation in Nanzan University in Nagoya.  In fact, there are no Japanese seminarians among temporary professed members of the SVD in Japan at this moment. The seminary community in Nagoya is quite international.  Family members of the new priests all managed to acquire visa to Japan and join the celebration.

The ordination Mass was con-celebrated by more than 40 priests and the chapel of Nanzan which could contain more than 500 people were packed wall to wall.  Since the rector, Fr. Xavier and the prefect, Fr. Narui, trained their seminarians very well in liturgy, the ordination Mass was so solemnly performed that, time to time, I have to be directed by them how to behave well as a bishop during the Mass.  Though there were no dancing for the Mass, such as in Ghana, it took 2 and half hours to complete the ceremony.  Congratulations for the newly ordained SVD Fathers and I will be waiting to welcome you in my diocese.

Oct 14, 2010

100th anniversary of Iwamizawa Catholic Church

A parish in Iwamizawa, an hour drive from Sapporo toward the north in Hokkaido, celebrated its 100th anniversary on 11 October with thanksgiving Mass and a party.  The thanksgiving Mass, which was presided over by myself, was attended by more than 100 people and several priests working around the area.

Iwamizawa used to be a key town for the rail way transportation for coal mining business in nearby Yubari coal complex.  However, all these mines have been closed down by 1990 and city of Yubari itself went  bankrupt in 2007.  Iwamizawa city was also hit by this recession in the mining business severely and still suffering.  Iwamizawa's population is around 90,000 and the Catholic community has around 100 members in the register book.  Fr. Miyabe, a diocesan priest of Sapporo, has been a parish priest since 2005 as its 18th pastor. 

The Catholic mission was established in 1909 by a French missionary and a chapel was built in 1910.  Then the mission of Iwamizawa was entrusted to Franciscans (OFM) from Germany in 1911 until 1954 when a Maryknoll missionary was appointed as its 10th pastor.  In 1973, a diocesan priest was appointed and, since then, the pastoral care of the parish has been under the diocesan priests.  The present chapel and a rectory was built in 2002.

After the Mass, we all moved to a building of the agricultural cooperative across the street for a party.  Though the parish community is small in number, they did quite well to prepare for the celebration.  Especially, I was so happy to see so many kids praying music for us.  Also a traditional street performance by a lady and a famous folk song performance by yet another lady were quite professional and wonderful.  Thank you for inviting us for such a wonderful and warm celebration.

Oct 10, 2010

Network Meeting in Shikotsuko

The 19th Network Meeting has been held in Shikotsuko (Lake Shikotsu) in Hokkaido from 9 to 10 October and more than 100 Catholic youths from all over Japan have gathered together in the Youth Hostel for their bi-annual meeting to exchange information on the Catholic Youth Apostolate in each diocese and deepen their friendship.  The Network Meeting itself has been planned and executed by young Catholics in Japan by themselves and assisted by the Japan Catholic Youth National Council, the officially recognized council by Bishops' Conference.  In 1998, the Bishops' Conference decided to discontinue the National Youth Committee of the Bishops'Conference and asked each of 16 dioceses in Japan to organise their own youth apostolate according to the local needs and situation.  However, Catholic Youth themselves felt needs to create their own association in national level to support each other and, thus, created the Japan Catholic Youth Council as their own organisation.  Through their discussion in the Council, they came with this bright idea of organising a network of youth apostolate in the Catholic Church in Japan and of organising bi-annual gatherings of youth in national level.  The very first meeting was held in Tokyo in 2001 and after 9 years, finally, it reached the northern end of Japan. The Bishops' Conference is supporting the youth apostolate by appointing Bishop Koriyama of Kagoshima as a bishop in charge.

For the 19th meeting, more than 20 youths from Sapporo diocese set up the organizing committee under the guidance of Fr. Morita, the diocesan youth chaplain.  The committee created wonderful 2-day program of activities and also organised themselves to prepare wonderful meals which was appreciated by participants from all over Japan including 8 priests and a Sister. Niigata diocese was represented by 4 youths.

The participants were divided into 10 groups and, on Saturday afternoon which I had participated in, sent out to look for 20 typical Hokkaido scenery which they had to take photos.  Photo above is the one of these groups taking one of these photos.  The very first item the participants from outside Hokkaido in this group mentioned was a buttered potatoes which is quite popular in Hokkaido.

Oct 4, 2010

The International day in Sapporo diocese celebrated

On 26 September, the Mission Sunday, the annual International Day was celebrated in Sapporo diocese.  The cathedral parish, Kita-ichijo, was the venue for the 11th International Day which was began with the Sunday Eucharist at 10:30 am presided over by me.  I could see during the Mass that there were more than 200 people attending.  One of the members of the English Mass community was the organist and there was a wonderful choir for the Mass.  Mass was said in mixture of several languages.

After the Mass, there was a festival in the KG ground where one could find good food from all over the world.  Also so many talented people in Sapporo gathered together to sing and dance.  Even there were African drumming performance and a gospel choir.  Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to enjoy with them since I had to go back to Niigata.