Apr 28, 2013

Sendai Diocese Support Meeting, held in Iwaki city

The Sendai Diocese Support Meeting was held in Iwaki city on 26 April, Friday, from 9:30 am to 3 pm.  This meeting was the 20th gathering of this group since the massive disaster in Tohoku on 11 March, 2011. Iwaki city is in Fukushima Prefecture and around 40 to 50 km south of Fukushima No1 Nuclear Power Station which is still under critical condition after the Tsunami disaster.  Within Iwaki city, there are 13 groups of temporary housings for evacuees.  Some of them are housed in private apartments which had been hired by local governments.  According to the government's statistics, more than three hundred and then thousand people are still unable to return to their original area in entire disaster hit area in Tohoku.  Most of the disaster hit area is in Sendai diocese.

The meeting was chaired by Bishop Hiraga of Sendai and attended by 17 plus participants including 5 Bishops. This monthly meeting is to coordinate relief efforts of Catholic Church in Japan within Sendai Diocese.  Three ecclesiastical provinces, Tokyo, Osaka and Nagasaki had established their volunteer bases and have been sending team of volunteers to support people.  These provinces were represented by Bishop Koda, Bishop Suwa and Bishop Hamaguchi respectively. I represented Bishops' Conference relief team with Fr. Kanda and Mr Hamaguchi, both from Osaka and Fr. Narui, SVD who had been a director of Sendai Support Center and the director of Caritas Japan till the end of March.  Though Fr. Narui has been appointed as JPIC coordinator for entire SVD (Divine Word Missionaries) congregation, he may help us as a member of my team as far as his time permits.

We met for this meeting in the "Mominoki Support Station" in Iwaki city run by Saitama diocese as a base for volunteers and also to invite people to come and relax with cup of coffee. The center itself is a beautiful log cabin while we could still see a number of temporary housings around the area.

At the beginning of this meeting, two people from Okuma town shared their stories after the disaster. Okuma town is where four of 6 power plants of Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Station are located and, as it is now, 96% of the area is closed for civilians to enter.  These two mothers of young kids from Okuma town had to evacuate from their homes after the accident of nuclear power plants and unable to return since then.

Apr 9, 2013

Caritas Japan's Easter video message

Following is a three-minute video message on Easter by myself as the president of Caritas Japan.

Apr 1, 2013

Happy Easter !

Happy Easter to you all.

I hope you had wonderful and blessed celebrations during this Holy Week with your own communities.  As for myself, it was a blessed week of being with so many people to pray, meditate and celebrate.

I celebrated the Passion Sunday Mass with Kamo Catholic community in Niigata prefecture.  The parish priest, Fr. Sakamoto, had to travel to Akita with the diocesan youth group, since he is a diocesan chaplain for youths, I was asked to help the liturgy of this small parish.  All together there were around 20 people to join the Mass.  You may see from the photo above, number of Catholics from other countries are important members of this community.  They are from Philippines and Sri Lanka and have been good mothers and wives in Japanese families.

Then on Tuesday, after the Priests' Senate meeting on Monday, I celebrated the Chrism Mass with priests working in Niigata Diocese.  There must be around 33 priests working in my diocese, including 15 diocesan priests and number of religious priests, 20 of them were in attendance.  Some had to travel more than 300 km to reach the Cathedral such as those priests in Akita district so that they had decided to send their delegation of three.  After the Mass, we shared rice with curry which is one of the most popular dishes in Japan.

In the evening on Tuesday, I traveled to Sapporo by air.  It is an hour flight to Sapporo Chitose airport from Niigata by AirDo.  On Wednesday at 10:30 am, it was the turn of Sapporo Diocese to have their Chrism Mass in Kitaichijo Cathedral Church.  Church was packed by faithfuls and around 20 priests joined the Mass.  There must be around 30 priests working in more than 60 parishes in the diocese which is the entire island of Hokkaido.  It is almost impossible for some of them to travel all the way to Sapporo city during winter time.  Hokkaido is famous for severe winter conditions.  This was my fourth Chrism Mass in this diocese as I have been appointed its administrator in November, 2009.  I hope and pray our new Holy Father will remember this vacant see and appoint a new bishop as soon as possible.

From Thursday till Sunday, I was in Niigata and celebrated Holy Thursday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Mass.  Fr.Ngaji, SVD, the assistant parish priest of the Cathedral took the Good Friday liturgy.

During the Easter Vigil, four people, one lady and three gentlemen, were baptised and also received confirmation.  Congratulations!  The parish community is ready to accompany you to deepen your faith experiences.

On Easter Sunday after the Mass, there was a gathering of members to congratulate those who had been baptised and also to bit farewell to their parish priest, Fr.Ebe, who is going back to his own diocese, Tokyo archdiocese after 4 years of service in Niigata.  Fr. Ebe, thank you for your service for this diocese and we wish you well for your new appointments as the parish priest of Kanda in Tokyo.