Nov 27, 2012

Opening of the workshop on Anti-Trafficking @Tagaytay

Caritas Asia organised a regional planning workshop on anti-trafficking of women and children in Tagaytay, Philippines, from 21 to 23 November at the CBCP Nassa BEC development Center. The workshop was hosted by Caritas Philippines, Nassa. I could join the workshop as the President of Caritas Asia only on the first day to welcome more than 30 participants from 11 countries in Asia. Bishop Pabillo, the chairman of CBCP Commission on Social Action, joined the opening Mass and gave us encouragement through his homily. Caritas Internationalis is also represented by Ms. Orga Zhyvvsta, the project adviser in Rome.  

Caritas Asia inherited the program on the Anti-trafficking from APHD and has been seriously tackling this terrible crime in the modern society. So this workshop is to evaluate past experience of the program and plan for future. 

Below is my welcome address at the beginning of the workshop.

This is my greatest pleasure to be with you today to join the Caritas Asia Workshop on Anti-Trafficking of Women and Children.  While showing our sincere gratitude to Caritas Philippines (NASSA) who is generously hosting this event, I also welcome all of you on behalf of the entire member organizations of Caritas Asia.
Currently, our Church is celebrating the Year of Faith from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013.  The Holy Father has set this occasion for all Christians to rediscover, and share with others the precious gift of Faith entrusted to the Church and the personal gift of faith that we have each received from God.  As a member of Caritas Member Organizations, we also share this sentiment of the Catholic Church and try to commit ourselves to be a part of its mission, especially in the field of charitable activities. The Holy Father, in his first Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" puts emphasis on the three-fold responsibilities of the Church which are "proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia)"  Therefore, while participating in the Caritas activities, we are also taking part in the essential dimension of its mission.
The Year of Faith also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.  Among all the important documents of the Council, the "PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD", "GAUDIUM ET SPES" has significant importance for our direction in Caritas activities.  The constitution begins with these famous phrases: "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts."
Though we may find number of "joys and hopes" among people whom we serve, much more "griefs and anxieties" attracts our attention.  One of these "griefs and anxieties" is problems caused by human trafficking of women and children.
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in modern society. It has been victimizing millions of women, children all over the world. And it does not care about international borders.  Therefore every country of this world is affected in one way or another.  So it is a cry of the people that has to be answered by each and everyone.
I hope that this meeting for the member organizations of Caritas Asia, that are part of the regional program on the Anti-Trafficking of Women and Children, will give all of us a good opportunity to share our experiences and give us courage to work for people who are locked in the bond of human misery.
I wish you all a happy stay in the Philippines.

The Chrysanthemum Festival @ Yahiko Shrine

Annual event of the Chrysanthemum (Kiku) Festival was held at YAHIKO Shinto Shrine in Yahiko township near Niigata city from 1 November to 24. This festival is a kind of competition among local flower growers.  Though you do not find dolls made out of flowers here as other famous Kiku Festivals but you may see wonderful Kiku flowers all over the shrine premises.


 Yahiko Shrine is located at the foot of Mt. Yahiko which is 634m above sea level. 634m high is the same height with Tokyo Skytree. You may climb the Mt. Yahiko either by foot, a cable car or by your own car. At the top of the mountain, you may also try to ride a Panorama Tower which brings you 100m high and give you perfect 360 degree view only if weather is fine.

Nov 13, 2012

Pastoral visits @ Naoetsu, Myoko & Itoigawa

Autumn is a season for pastoral visits of parishes in Niigata Diocese.  So I made two pastoral visits on Sunday, 4 November and another one on 11 in Nagaoka district which is in south of Niigata prefecture.

First on 4 November at 9:30 am in Naoetsu. Parishioners gathered together in front of the city crematory.  I do not know what images you have on "crematory" but the photo above is the one in Naoetsu and this is a typical crematory in Japan.  You do not find any chimney and it looks like a museum or hotel.  In Japan, one can not avoid cremation on transition from this world to eternity.  It will be quite difficult to find any cemeteries in Japan which accept actual burial of a body.  In most cases, a tomb is owned by a family and it has space enough to contain ashes. 
Well, across the street from the crematory is the Parish Cemetery of Naoetsu Parish and that is why parishioners had been gathering in front of the crematory. Every year in the first Sunday of November, number of parishes in our diocese organises the cemetery Mass to pray for their beloved departed souls.  The parish priest, Fr. Hubert Nelskamp,OFM, celebrated Mass with me.  After the Mass, we returned to the Parish for lunch together.

After the lunch, I traveled with Fr. Hubert to visit Myoko Church, an out-station of Takada parish.  Fr. Hubert is also taking care of Takada parish at this moment with 2 other elderly priests assisting him for Mass duties.  Myoko Church is in a mountainside of Mt. Myoko. Myoko area is beautiful place and the station has a lovely chapel which looks like a mountain cabin. Also they have a cottage which is able to accommodate around 50 people. The cottage used to belong to a major bank corporation.  Any Catholics not only in Niigata diocese but from all over Japan are welcome to use this wonderful facility of Myoko cottage.   Contact Takada parish for information.  Moreover, this cottage has natural Onsen, a hot spring bath, attached in it. You have to enjoy it.
On 11 November, I drove around 3 hours to reach the southern end of my diocese, Itoigawa city.  There Fr. Bruno Fabbri, OFM, was waiting for me to visit his flock in Itoigawa.  I could find number of faces from Philippines among the congregation. 

Fr. Bruno arranged a kind of forum after the Mass to let parishioners to ask any questions to Bishop. After some typical questions, such as what would be the answer for aging population and diminishing number of youths in parishes in the diocese, or what would be the best way to strengthen community spirit, etc., one lady stood up to share her own story.  She was an only Catholic in her family.  Typical situation in Japan.  Her husband never showed any interest to Christianity and their children are rather hostile against to any religious practices.  So she was lamenting her inability to contribute to the Evangelisation effort of the Church and asked me what to do.
I just wondered what to say to her since this is not the only case in Catholic community in Japan and many are feeling kind of guilty conscience of not able to produce much fruits of the Evangelisation in their family.  What to say?  Then the situation of migrant Catholics, especially those ladies from other countries who had been married with Japanese farmers in my diocese came to my mind.  I have been telling these migrant Catholics that they had been sent by God as missionaries of modern times to penetrate deep into Japanese traditional family system with Gospel values behind them.  So it must be the same case with these Japanese Catholics who are feeling alone in their families.  They do not have to be ashamed of not doing anything for the Evangelisation because without their very existence in their families, these family members, husbands or wives and kids, never ever had any chance to encounter with Christianity. Whether these family members take positive or negative attitude toward Christianity, at least they had a chance to know about it through these lone Catholics in families.  What a great contribution to the Evangelisation.  What a deep mystery of God's providence. 
After the forum, we had lunch together and I enjoyed both Japanese and Filipino foods.  Thank you everyone in Naoetsu, Myoko and Itoigawa for wonderful hospitality to be with your Bishop.