Jan 28, 2012

The 7th annual forum organised by the Conference of Religious Superiors@Osaka

The 7th annual forum of both men and women religious superiors working in Japan was held in Osaka on 16 January.  The annual event was organised jointly by Major Superiors' Conferences of Men and Women in Japan.  More than 130 people, majority of them are superiors of their respected congregations, as provincials or district superiors and number of Mother Superiors of local congregations, working in Japan, gathered in Umeda Catholic Church, which is now called "Sacra Familia" to exchange ideas on evengelization effort in Japan. Several bishops, including myself, had been invited to give inputs on the theme, "Evangelization seen from the view point of local Church;  Overcoming differences and work together". 
Bishop Matsuura of Osaka and Bishop Otsuka of Kyoto shared about their experiences in respected dioceses of team shared ministries. I was also invited to share about the experience of relief activities of Caritas Japan during the recent disaster in Tohoku. Fr. Kanda of Osaka also shared his experience of working with people in Kobe area after 1995 earthquake.

Archbishop Joseph Chennoth, the new Apostolic Nuncio to Japan, was also invited and he also shared his ideas on Mission of the Church in perfect Japanese language. (Photo above)
After the lunch break. Sr. Watanabe who has been involved in the team ministry in Kobe and Ms. Yamano who is in charge of Catholic Social Action Center in Kobe joined 3 bishops for a panel discussion the theme.
Bishops and religious are not in adversary relationship but both diocesan bishops and religious congregations have their own priorities in mission activities in the area and sometimes these priorities differ a bit, not in general direction but in actual practices.  Therefore it is quite important for both side to share ideas and try to find the way to work together.  Especially for those religious congregations which have been engaged with institutions such as schools and hospitals sometimes face difficulties to follow the priorities set by local bishops for the mission of the diocese in maintaining and running their institutions effectively. 

Jan 18, 2012

JINOMORI volunteer base opened @ OFUNATO

OSAKA Ecclesiastical Province, which is comprised of dioceses of Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Takamatsu and Nagoya, has opened their own center for volunteer activities in Tsunami stricken area of southern Iwate prefecture in a city called OFUNATO.  The center is called "JINOMORI IKOI-no IE" which means a "home to take a break in JINOMORI".  JINOMORI is name of the area.

Opening ceremony was held on 14 January, Saturday at 11 am with thanksgiving Mass celebrated in nearby Catholic Parish of OFUNATO presided over by Bishop Otsuka of Kyoto.  Bishop Hiraga of Sendai and myself joined Bishop Otsuka and more than 15 priests also con-celebrated the Mass.  After the Mass, a parish council president, Dr. YAMAURA greeted people packed in their relatively small chapel saying that they will never again see such a many bishops and priests celebrating Mass in their chapel while they are still alive.  So this was the historical day in Ofunato parish, according to the doctor.  Dr. YAMAURA is quite famous with his original colloquial translation of Bible in KESEN dialect.  He read the gospel of the day in that translation during the Mass.  Dr. YAMAURA, a medical Doctor, has been one of the main person to organise relief efforts in the area after the Tsunami disaster on March 11.

After the Mass and lunch in their Catholic KG, we all moved to the center, JINOMORI IKOI-no IE, to attend yet another ceremony to officially open the center with representatives from local community and local governments.  Both city mayor of Ofunato and prefecture Governor of Iwate sent their delegates to attend the ceremony.  At the beginning of the ceremony, Iwate prefecture government gave Caritas Japan a certificate of appreciation which I received on behalf of Caritas Japan.  It was given because of our recent contribution to purchase heaters for MINASHI KASETSU housings for disaster victims.  MINASHI KASESTU is houses or apartments hired by a local government to cover shortages of temporal housings which supposed to be built by them.  Since MINASHI KASETSU are considered well built to resist cold weather, national government is not providing enough budget to purchase heaters for them.  That is why, though I still have difficulty to understand why the national government is not willing to help, several NGOs decided to assist local governments in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima to purchase these heaters needed.

In 1960 after the Tsunami disaster caused by earthquake in Chile, Swiss missionaries built a house to provide a shelter for local people in this area.  Yes, an earthquake in Chile caused massive tsunami in this area and so many people were killed at that time. Then the local people called the house "IKOI-no IE" and that is why the house is now named "JINOMORI IKOI-no IE" after the good memory of Swiss missionaries at that time.  Osaka Ecclesiastical Province is now organising volunteers to visit the area regularly and also provide a free space for local people to gather together in the house to chat over tea and spend time or meet friends. 

Jan 9, 2012


On the day of feast of Epiphany, which is on Sunday in Japan, 5 people received the Sacrament of Confirmation in OMOTEMCHI Parish in Nagaoka, Niigata.  The Confirmation supposed to be done in December last year, however, heavy snow fall in Sapporo prevented me to come back to Niigata after the dedication Mass of a new chapel of Kitahiroshima Parish in Hokkaido.  So I was forced to postpone the visit of Nagaoka till 8 January.  Since the parish priest, Fr. Takahashi and his assistants, Fr. Ferdy, SVD, and Fr.Lorenzo, SVD, are in charge of 3 parishes, namely Omotemachi, Fuluzumi and Tokamachi, those confirmed yesterday came from all these 3 parishes.

Also the crucifix which has been relayed through parishes in the diocese to commemorate 100th anniversary of the establishment of Niigata diocese has arrived in Nagaoka from Sanjo during the Mass yesterday.  More than 10 parishioners with their parish priest, Fr. Ishiguro from Sanjo brought the crucifix to Omotemachi and handed it over to the congregation of Omotemachi.  It will stay with them for 2 weeks before moving to Aoyama parish.  After the Mass, a humble tea party was held in a parish hall so that 3 communities, Omotemachi, Fukuzumi and Sanjo, have enough chance to know each other better.  As the crucifix come with a note book and each parish communities are supposed to complete 2 pages with messages to rest of the diocese, members of Omotemachi already started to fill in a huge space of the note book with their messages.

In order to deepen our faith in this occasion of the centenary of the diocese, we should have organised a pilgrimage to visit all the parish communities in the diocese by ourselves.  Our Church is the pilgrim church and our life itself is also a journey. As the Lumen Gentium 48 of Vat II says that  "the Church will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven," our life itself is also a journey and pilgrimage.  A journey is always characterised with uncertainty.  We do not know what will happen next and we will never be able to attain the perfect goal by ourselves.  So going to pilgrimage reminds us of the meaning of our lives as journey.  Unfortunately it is not easy to organise real walking travel as pilgrimage in our situation but, instead of ourselves, the crucifix which is the One unite us under the same faith is going around for pilgrimage of the diocese.  So it is not the one or two weeks event in parishes to accommodate the crucifix in their chapels.  We just spend a day to carry it to next station but through that experience we should join entire journey of pilgrimage together with the crucifix and with our brothers and sisters in the diocese.    

Jan 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Bright light shines in deep darkness like beacon to direct people to a safe place.  Photo above is a night view of Otsuchi volunteer base in Iwate which I have mentioned in my last post.  As a new year, 2012, begins, I hope and pray that we, those who know or experienced real and true light which is in Jesus Christ, to become such source of light in darkness and be able to deliver message of hope to many people struggling to find the way to follow. 

I thank all of you for your prayer and support which made me able to continue my apostolate as bishop.  Kindly continue to remember me in prayer.  Also I sincerely thank all of you for your kind words, donations and prayer to support and to show your solidarity with people in earthquake and tsunami affected area.  Also kindly continue to do so for them throughout the year 2012.  They still need your support.

Happy New Year!

Bishop Isao Kikuchi, SVD