Oct 31, 2011

Pilgrimage to Lourdes

I have just returned from 10 days pilgrimage with 69 people to France and Italy from 18 to 28 October organised by Niigata diocese.  It was to commemorate 100th anniversary of the diocese, which had been established in 1912 as an Apostolic Vicariate and in 1962 as a diocese, and also as thanksgiving for my Silver jubilee of priestly ordination.  We also wanted to show our gratitude to Holy Father for his donation and prayer for victims of March 11 disaster.

Our first stop was Lourdes for 2 days.  I wanted to visit Lourdes by all means since my first assignment in Ghana was a priest in charge of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Osonson, Krobo in present Koforidua diocese in 1987. Oosonson has its own Grotto and the parish was the pilgrimage site for faithful of Krobo deanery.  Every December, Osonson organises December 8 Marian pilgrimage for 3 days which attracts thousands of people to Osonson.  So I wanted to visit the "real" grotto in Lourdes.

On our first day, it was raining and very cold.  But because of this rather unfortunate weather, not so many pilgrims were there in front of the Grotto.  So our people did not have to wait too long to take a bath and were able to stay long within the Grotto to pray. 

We were allowed to celebrate Holy Eucharist in the Crypt on first day.  I was joined by 2 priests, Fr. Ohtaki of Niigata and Fr. Hayakawa of Nagoya.  I shared my story with Holy Mother that how she had tried to keep me in close contact with her despite my rather unwillingness to be close with her.  As a minor seminarian, I was always quite reluctant to return to seminary after classes to join Rosary prayer time before sports activities.  My attitude did not change much as major seminarian.  I have to confess that I was not so serious about reciting Rosary as such.  Then, for my great surprise, I was appointed as a priest in charge of a parish with famous grotto of the area and strong group of Legion of Mary and Rosary Crusade.  After 7 years in the parish, I returned to Japan and again a Rosary prayer group asked me to be their chaplain saying that they were praying for priest vocation.  As one in seminary formation, I could not say no to be their chaplain.  Then after some years, I was appointed as a Bishop of the diocese which includes Akita where miraculous events happened in 70's with a Marian Statue.  So Holy Mother is always trying to keep me in the place where I can not ignore praying Rosary.

Lourdes was a silent and holy place with a lot of natural beauty.  I hope I may be able to visit Lourdes again and stay for a bit longer than this time.    

Oct 17, 2011

Confirmation in KAMEDA in Niigata

I made an official visitation of KAMEDA Parish in Niigata city on 16 October and celebrated a Sunday Mass together with the parish community.  During the Mass, 5 people received the sacrament of confirmation.  KAMEDA town is well known in all over Japan by the head office of KAMEDA SEIKA, a confectionery company for rice crackers and others sweets.  The parish community is small with around 30 Sunday Mass attendance but the community is full of family spirit.  So as usual, I was invited to join their Saturday diner party in a parish hall and drink Sake with them.

Also KAMEDA parishioners made news a few years ago when they had managed to built their new chapel through their own contributions.  Catholics in Japan were surprised because such a small community had been able to contribute to built a new building for their chapel.

Congratulations for those who received the sacrament and thank you for the community for your wonderful hospitality.

By the way, I will travel to France and Italy for 10 days from 18 October with more than 70 people for pilgrimage to commemorate the 100th anniversary of establishment of Niigata diocese.  I will report the trip after my return on 28 October.

Till then, you may also go to this link of Caritas Internationalis to read my interview on Tsunami disaster.   

Oct 14, 2011

Manila receives its new head pastor

Holy Father, last night, accepted resignation submitted by Cardinal Gaudencio B. Rosales of Manila, Philippines.  Cardinal was already 79 years old.  Then Holy Father appointed Bishop Antonio Tagle of Imus diocese as new archbishop of Manila.

Archbishop-elect was born in 1957 and well known as talented theologian and good speaker.  Also he has been a member of Holy See's International Theology Commission which was once headed by then Cardinal Ratzinger.  Above photo is taken in Taiwan in May, 2010 during a workshop organised by FABC.  I attended his talks several times.  He has special talent to explain extremely difficult matter in easiest language. Congratulations, Archbishop-elect Tagle.

Oct 9, 2011

Sapporo district held its assembly

Sapporo district held its assembly called "Shito-shoku Taikai (Assembly for apostolates)" on Sunday October 2 at Fuji Women's University in downtown Sapporo.  The Sapporo district is the biggest in number of faithful among 6 districts of Sapporo diocese since the district is comprised of 20 parishes in the capital city of Sapporo and surroundings.

Usually an international Mass is organised a week before on the Mission Sunday together with several fun events in Kita Ichijo Cathedral parish.  However, for this year, the district decided to combine the international Mass and the Assembly Mass and organised the event as meeting place for both Japanese and migrant Catholics in Sapporo area.  The theme of the assembly was "Let's get together!"

At the beginning of the assembly, I was invited as a lecturer to give a talk on our experience in Shinjo in Yamagata prefecture where Filipino community worked together with their families and 2 local Japanese Catholics to establish a parish in October 2010.  I shared a story of one of their leaders in Shinjo who struggle for more than 20 years after she migrated to Japan to get married with a Japanese farmer to find their own place for worship.  Because of her eagerness to go to Church on Sundays which supposed to be a resting day, her neighbours started to ask her a question.  "Are you not able to live without going to Church?"  Her enthusiasm to visit Church made others to feel that she was kind of different.  So they wanted to know why she wants to go to Church on holidays.  After days of hard work in farm, she should take a day of rest.  In stead of resting, she struggle to go to Church.  So people wanted to know her motivation.

As Catholic Church in Japan does not have sufficient outposts in rural villages, the presence of so many Filipino Catholics 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.  That question by a neighbor of the leader of the community is quite significant.  "Are you not able to live without going to Church?"  We also want to be asked the same question by others.  We want to be witnesses of Gospel and that is the mission by the Lord to all of us, Christians.  In fulfilling this mission in Japan, God has his own plan to proclaim his good news in Japan.  And our beloved brothers and sisters from other countries are missionaries to be sent to places traditional church could not reach in Japan.

During the international Mass, several readings and general intersessions were in different languages.  Beautiful kids from several countries came up to the front for offertory and songs in several languages were sung.

After the Mass, during lunch time, for our great surprise, a VIP guest suddenly appeared in front of us in person of "President Obama" of the USA together with his strong security police force.  He greeted us and, of course, shared a Maccha Ice Cream with us which he had enjoyed in Kamakura.  It was a perfect performance organised by the International community of the district.  Thank you for your wonderful performance.  

Oct 3, 2011

President Aquino visited Ishinomaki

On 26 September, President Benigno Aquino of Philippines visited city of Ishinomaki in Sendai diocese.  Ishinomaki is one of many coastal cities which was hit by Tsunami on 11 March.  The president was met by the city mayor and taken around to see the disaster hit area of the city.  Then he was taken to Catholic Parish in Ishinomaki where more than 170 Filipinos were waiting for him together with the parish priest, Fr. Aizu of Sendai diocese.

The president was welcomed by kids of Ishinomaki Catholic Kindergarten and escorted by Fr. Aizu to a KG hall.  There he delivered speech to gathering Filipinos from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima to encourage them to overcome this difficult time in Japan after the disaster.  Majority of these Filipinos have invited to come to Japan to be married with Japanese.  Before the disaster happened,  many of them could not reach Catholic Church since they had to struggle hard everyday including Sundays to support their new families in Japan.  Majority of those family members are not Catholics or Christians.  As wives and mothers of these families in Japan, it was difficult them to take time to come to Church on Sundays.  So, according to Fr. Aizu, the parish priest, he did not know there were so many resident Filipinos in the area till 11 March this year.  However, after the disaster, Filipino mothers started to gather at the parish since they could find peace in their mind and heart only in Catholic Church.  Immediately after the disaster, as Fr. Aizu realised there were so many Filipinos around, he started to organise parishioners to support them and also respond to the needs of Filipino community.

The president even spent more than 20 minuets in private with Fr. Aizu to listen to the real situation of Filipino community in the area.  Sendai diocese is preparing to support these migrant catholics who were affected by the disaster by sending a pastoral team which includes Filipino priest to the area.