Japan Catholic News
ECUMENICAL CHURCH BODY PROTESTS NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR TEST
Catholic Weekly, October 29, 2006
In response to the Oct. 9 North Korean government announcement on that
it had carried out a nuclear test, the National Christian Council in
Japan (NCC) issued a "Statement of Protest against the Nuclear
Test by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea)" Oct.
19 under the joint signatures of Aika Taira, a member of the NCC Committee
on Peace and Nuclear Issues, and Toshimasa Yamamoto, general secretary
of the NCC in Japan.
According to the statement, "Based on the NCC's long history of
crying 'No' to the use, possession or building of nuclear weapons," the
NCC calls anew for a commitment to the non-nuclearization of East Asia,
including countries like China and the United States, and, beyond that,
for a commitment to "realize the total abolition of nuclear weapons
as soon as humanly possible."
Concluding that the administration of U.S. President George Bush "has
changed its foreign policy from one based on dialogue to one that puts
its emphasis on pressure," and in view of the present situation,
the statement expressed concern that the administration will choose
sanctions or a nuclear attack against North Korea. The NCC called on
the Japanese government to persuade the U.S. government not to use
those methods, demanding that both governments "seek a peaceful
solution not linked to a series of reprisals."
According to Sr. Haruko Ishikawa of the Japan Catholic Council on Justice
and Peace, the council is also preparing a statement. She said that
the committee has continually petitioned all countries, including the
governments of the United States and Europe, to end all nuclear testing
throughout the world. Also, with regard to the problems between Japan
and Korea, it has called on the governments to find a solution through
an honest dialogue between the two countries. The statement being prepared
will restate these demands, including a call for strict observance
of the three non-nuclear principles of Japan.
PARISH SPONSORS TRAINING PROGRAM FOR CARE GIVERS
Catholic Weekly, October 22, 2006
A training course that qualifies people as home helpers and home carers
able to respond to the individual needs of the sick and elderly is
held each year at the Yokohama diocese's Fujisawa Church in Kanagawa
prefecture with many Catholics participating. Former homeless people
and people of foreign nationality as well as Catholics from Fujisawa
are among those who attend the course.
Catholics of Fujisawa organized the first Home Helpers' Training Course
(Level 2) at the church three years ago. The course lasts for three
weeks with three sessions each week and consists of over 100 hours
of instruction along with two weeks' practical work through which the
participants acquire the skills necessary to provide suitable nursing
care to the elderly and handicapped. On completing the course participants
receive a Level Two Certificate in Home Care.
The training course was set up by Catholics with nursing and other
medical qualifications who used their own contacts to invite teachers
and gain recognition from Kanagawa prefecture. In contrast to similar
training courses run by local authorities, participants need only pay
between sixty and seventy percent of the course fee. Foreigners and
former homeless people are welcome to participate.
According to Katsuro Kawabe, the office manager at Fujisawa Church, "the
training course is supervised by Shonan Life Support, an NGO (non-government
organization) that assists the homeless. Half of the members of Shonan
Life Support are parishioners of the Fujisawa Church. It was set up
with the hope that it would provide the homeless and people unable
to live on their own with an incentive to try and become more self-reliant."
Last year, a former homeless man acquired the Level Two qualification
and used it to help with the care of an elderly companion in the place
where he lived. A Filipino national who also acquired the Level Two
qualification is now a popular caregiver at work in a hospital.
Foreign nationals interested in care giving are uneasy about attending
a local authority training course, but they like the family atmosphere
at the Fujisawa Church course, and say that "the teachers are
Each year over 15 people acquire the home helper qualifications, and
Catholics comprise 60 percent of these.
"We hope that 10 percent of the Catholics of Fujisawa Church will acquire
the Level Two qualification," said Kazuko Sone, one of
the assistants at the course.
This will enable Catholics to provide practical help as volunteers
to people in need in the locality. The latest course, which began in
September, approaches the mid-way stage to this goal.
Dariya Ono, a 27 year-old who worked as a nurse in her native Ukraine,
currently assists with the bathing of elderly people. She is participating
in the course to upgrade her qualifications.
"I think that with this qualification I will be able to do the work
I really wish to do," she said happily.
Carlos Niet, a 43-year-old Argentinian member of the Fujisawa parish,
said eagerly, "I cannot look after my parents in my native country,
and this causes me a lot of stress. So I wish to help look after the
elderly in Japan to make up for this."
At 73 the oldest participant, Yoichi Uchijima, another Fujisawa parishioner,
is already helping as a volunteer in the terminal care ward of a hospital.
"I have suffered from cancer myself, and wish to give the kind of care
that patients desire, but as a volunteer there is a limit to what I
can do. If I were qualified as a caregiver, it would enable me to bring
my experience in practical ways to many more people," he said.
People who acquire the Level Two qualification can work at medical
institutions or through home nursing organizations, helping people
covered by nursing insurance. Most of the people who have graduated
from the course are working as volunteers, caring for the sick and
MISSIONERS FROM AND TO JAPAN COMMENT ON THEIR LIVES AND WORK
Catholic Weekly, October 22, 2006
The Mission Sunday, Oct. 22, issue of the Catholic Weekly featured
Japanese who have returned home after doing missionary work abroad
and missionaries from Europe and America who have just begun to work
"I did not ask to go to Africa," said Sr. Yoko Amano, 70, of the
Society of Helpers who went to Chad in 1990 at the age of 55 and spent
10 years engaged in missionary work there. While recovering from an
illness he was first asked about going there by her superior, and agreed
to go, thinking, "I still have life, and the superiors of my congregation
wish to give me an opportunity to do something, and perhaps this is
what God is asking of me."
It has been nine years since 39-year-old Fr. Aymeric De Salvert of
the Paris Foreign Mission Society arrived in Japan. His first encounter
with Japan was when instead of military service he worked as a volunteer
at a French-speaking church in Tokyo. After returning home he entered
a seminary, and found that "the voice saying 'I wish to go on
mission' became louder." After ordination he was sent to Japan.
He now works at the Kitanijurokujo Church in Sapporo.
Fr. Masayoshi Syuto, 60, of Hachinohe Church of the Sendai diocese
went as a missionary to Brazil in 1988 and worked there for five years.
A Brazilian bishop's comment that "here even when priests grow
old they cannot take a rest as they are looking after many churches" made
an impression on the Japanese. He worked in Santarem diocese in the
Explaining his decision to go to Brazil, he said, "Ten years had
passed since I had become a priest, and I just felt like going where
I was needed."
Fr. Suyto visited over 30 communities by boat.
"It took over seven hours to get to the nearest one," he said. "I
used to visit it about six times a year."
According to the priest, the role of a priest doing missionary work
in Brazil is to train lay leaders of each Christian community.
"For example, there could be one week-long diocesan training course
in a year, and about four people participate representing each church.
They return to their parishes, gather representatives of the different
communities, and hold another course there with the same content."
He felt that this method could also be applied to Japan today.
"The number of churches in Sendai diocese where there is no resident
priest is increasing. It is strange to say 'the church will be closed'
because the number of priests has decreased. If there are Catholics
there, then what is important from now on is to train these people
to live out their faith there."
Missionary work and pastoral work are connected, said Fr. Syuto
"What is important is the people who are coming to church now. If these
people can express their faith in words, and live out the joy of their
faith in their local areas, I think that is equal to missionary work."
Sr. Amano spent eight years teaching at a girls' primary school in
Mongo diocese in the interior of Chad.
"I was always thinking about desertification," she said. Along
with teaching, she was trying to increase vegetation, and the local
people showed a lot of interest in this.
"I realized that in order to live, the 'water of life' is essential," she
Education in forestation methods advanced with assistance from Japanese
aid organizations and in dialogue with the local people.
She returned to Japan in 2001, and works in a convent in her native
Hiroshima while having contacts with various local citizens' organizations.
Commenting on the impact of her foreign mission experience, Sr. Amano
said, "My heart opened wider through my contacts with a wider
world. I am now helping people to think about why the world is the
way it is and what kind of help is available to people."
After studying Japanese, Fr. De Salvert began to look after a number
of churches in Sapporo diocese in the autumn of 2000.
He felt that the Japanese Church was "somewhat closed." He
said that he "would like to see everybody thinking together about
what evangelization means in Sapporo diocese today. I think people
should understand the meaning of missionary work when they see me."
He has had some unexpected rewards.
"A member of a Yakuza (organized crime) organization comes to the church
every day, and now he is preparing for baptism. I was surprised. But
God calls people I would never think about. This also is part a missionary
The French missioner observed that World Mission Day in Japan is usually
just about collecting money. He pointed out that in France there are
many events to mark the day.
"One church in a diocese may be designated to organize an 'International
Day,' while many churches ask a missionary to come and talk to the
congregation. There are also month-long prayer circles in dioceses
Fr. De Salvert feels these prayers support him and enable him to carry
out his work.
"It is not just my own efforts, but I am supported by my diocese. There
are people backing me up all the time," he said.
JAPANESE CATHOLICS IN OVERSEAS MISSION TOTAL 361
Catholic Weekly, October 22, 2006
According to statistics compiled by the Nihon Katorikku Kaigai Senkyousha
o Sasaeru Kai (association to support Japan's foreign missionaries),
in March of this year there were 361 Catholics who had been sent from
Japan serving overseas as missionaries.
Among them were 57 priests and brothers, 292 sisters and 12 lay people.
According to continental distribution, 20 countries of Africa had a
total of 40 Japanese missionaries; there were 35 in six countries of
North and Central America; a total of 88 in six countries of South
America; in 13 Asian countries there were 125 Japanese missionaries;
64 missionaries in 11 European countries; and nine Japanese missionaries
had been sent to Australia and two other Oceanic countries. The graph
shows the number of missionaries from Japan in each continent.
Included in these statistics are foreign members of the Japanese provinces
of religious congregations.
BISHOP BLESSES NEW CHURCH SITE AND COMMUNITY
Catholic Weekly, October 8, 2006
In its May 28 issue, the Catholic Weekly began a series of occasional
articles that will trace the development of a new parish in Joho, Ibaragi
prefecture, part of the Saitama diocese. The series looks at the process
and challenges involved in founding a new community. The following
is the third article in the series.
For the past six years, the Catholics of Joso city in southwest Ibaraki
prefecture, most of whom are from Brazil, have been planning to build
a church. They held a bazaar recently to raise funds and Bishop Daiji
Tani took the occasion to bless the site and the nucleus of the new
About 300 people, the majority of them immigrants from Brazil, attended
the Oct. 1 bazaar. The Sisters who organize the community had contacted
neighboring churches, with the result that contingents of Japanese
and Filipinos from Oyama Church and other places lent support and opened
stalls at the bazaar. Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and
Mary Fr. Michael Coleman, pastor of the Tsukuba Church, which presently
embraces the area of the new parish, also attended.
A five-member parish council was elected as the nucleus of the new
community and blessed by the bishop.
"This gathering is a source of great joy for us,"said Carmen Lucia
Akutsu, president of the council. "It all began with just a small
group six years ago and now here we are thinking of building a church!
We are going to do everything possible to realize this."
Francisco Conjiu, the council's vice president, spoke about the members'
hopes of building a strong community.
"We are very satisfied," he said. "But more important than
the church building is unity among the members. Today's bazaar could
not have been achieved without that."
Bishop Tani spoke about the composition of the new church, saying, "It
is quite a while now since someone from Mitsukaido said to me, 'We
need a church here.' Sure enough, when you look at the population distribution
you can see that this area has expanded. Further, the Brazilian immigrants
have already formed a community, so we decided we do need a church
in the suburbs. The trend is for small church communities and we are
going against it. The diocese is providing the site but the community
being still very small they will have to go slow with their building
There is still no permanent structure on the site and the Mass and
bazaar were held under tents in the rain.
In his sermon during the Mass, Fr. Olmes Milani of the Scalabrini Missionaries,
pastor to the Brazilian community, said, "In Brazil, if it rains
during a wedding, we say that it is God's blessing on the marriage.
Today's rain is God's blessing on the site for our new church."
The priest went on to point out that Brazil is composed of peoples
from all over the world, with different qualities that combine to build
a richer community. The Japanese are famous for their diligence; the
Italians for the care they lavish on their families, he said.
"Let us make our church here also a symbol of the international Church," Fr.
Shiozawa Christiane, who worked on preparations for the bazaar, told
a reporter that Brazilians employed in miscellaneous goods stores had
advertised the bazaar among their customers. She added that people
who do not come to Mass had turned out in strength to staff the bazaar.
A post office transfer account has been opened to accept contributions
for the building fund. The account number is 00140-2-483481, Catholic
Joso Church Building Committee.
GRATEFUL BUSINESSMAN SETS UP SCHOLARSHIP FUND FOR MEXICAN STUDENTS
Catholic Weekly, October 8, 2006
A Japanese businessman who was assisted by a cab driver in Mexico has
established a scholarship at the Jesuits' Sophia University for exchange
students from Mexico.
Tadao Toyofuku, managing director of the Shinsei Trust Bank, donated
22 million yen.
During a visit to Mexico in 1987, Toyofuku left a bag containing his
passport in a taxi. The driver brought it to the Japanese embassy and
Toyofuku was saved a lot of trouble.
Knowing that Sophia University has a department of Ibero-American Studies,
Toyofuku proposed a scholarship fund as a way of showing his gratitude
to the taxi driver.
During the Sept. 25 acceptance ceremony at the university, Toyofuku
spoke to the recipient of this year's scholarship and asked him to
learn everything possible about Japan.
The Mexican ambassador to Japan, Miguel Ruiz-Cabanas Izquierdo said
to Toyofuku, "I am deeply moved. I am confident your donation
will greatly strengthen the relations between our two nations."
Exchange student Jose Armando Gonzales Murillo, this year's recipient,
said, "I have wanted to come to Japan since I was 12."
He will have a 10-month stay here to enable him to deepen his understanding
of the country.
The scholarship provides recipients with 180,000 yen per month to cover
living expenses and travel within Japan, as well as 400,000 yen for
the return journey to Mexico.
JAPANESE PRIEST IN ARGENTINA FIGHTS DRUGS AND CRIME WITH PRAYER
Catholic Weekly, October 1, 2006
Society of the Divine Word Fr. Yasuharu Kitajima, ordained a priest
in 1993, works in Argentina in the state of Misiones, known as a place
where organized crime and drugs are rampant.
The 53-year-old priest said, "In the parish of Puerto Esperanza,
where I was assigned four years ago, the former pastor had stood up
and taken a clear position of opposition to drugs. The result of his
stand was that the mafia targeted his life and he ended up having to
escape from the parish. The two priests who were then sent to that
parish, which had lost both its pastor and even its parishioners, were
missioners from the Society of the Divine Word, an Indonesian priest
The town of Puerto Esperanza, where Fr. Kitajima was assigned, is located
about 50 kilometers southwest of the Iguazu Falls. The town has a population
of 20,000, half of whom are Catholics. The two priests, Fr. Kitajima
and Fr. Amansu Raka (38) took their posts as assistant pastor and pastor
respectively in the parish where they are responsible for 25 chapels.
"At first the two of us kept asking ourselves, 'what shall we
do' as we kept a low profile," said Fr. Kitajima. "Then,
after a lot of discussion we decided on our missionary plan. 'Let's
stop criticizing and bad-mouthing the mafia and drugs. Instead, let's
attack them with our actions.' We decided on our three weapons of attack:
the rosary, benediction and the Mass."
The priests decided that the first thing they should do was to have
Catholics gather at each church every morning at 5:30 to pray the rosary.
In order to see if the Catholics were gathering each morning for this
prayer, the two priests went around on their motorcycles to visit each
church. Also, once a week, they had a benediction service and a home
Mass. They also put a lot of effort into setting up study programs
at village offices, hospitals and schools and in visiting the sick.
It happened that just as these activities were in high gear an election
for the mayor of the town was to be held. Since the town was one in
which bribes were taken for granted, everyone expected that someone
supported by the mafia would be elected. However, the person elected
as the new mayor was a former seminarian who used municipal funds for
the good of all. The people and the town gained renewed life. Catholics
shared their desire that chapels be constructed in places that had
none. With the cooperation of the Catholics this was able to be accomplished.
Recently, a private radio station has scheduled a "Pray the Rosary" time
every morning. It broadcasts live the voices of different groups as
they take turns reciting the rosary. Many Catholics have requested
that Mass be said in their homes. They make great efforts to gather
people for the Mass. The Catholics have become very active and the
parish news bulletin has been revitalized. People have returned to
"Despite having been considered the worst parish in the Iguazu
Diocese, so bad that not even priests would want to go there, the church
now is filled with people, and Masses for the sick attract two to three
times the numbers that attend Sunday Mass. Now the parish is considered
a model parish in the diocese. The Bishop asked us, 'How did you do
it?' and we simply answered, 'the rosary, Mass and benediction.'"
Among those coming to church are many drug addicts, most of whom are
said to carry guns. One day, there was a man carrying a gun in the
churchyard who said that he was on the way to kill someone. The pastor
called out to him in a cheerful voice, "Have you come to Mass?
Come, come to Mass." Finally the man asked, "If I do, can
I receive a blessing?" Fr. Raka replied, "To receive a blessing,
first you must put the gun down. The pastor had him lay down the gun
and then he gave him a blessing. The man regained his composure and
left. Watching the man leaving, the two priests breathed a big sigh
of relief. This is the kind of scene that can be seen at the church
There are Catholics who come in the middle of the night for the sacrament
of reconciliation. Among them are many drug addicts. The pastor has
heard confessions in the middle of the night for as long as three hours
in a row. Besides offering support to the pastor engaged in such activities,
Fr. Kitajima is also involved in his own pastoral mission activities.
As the only priest involved in caring for nikkeijin (ethic Japanese),
he makes the rounds of six locations that have a sizable population
of Japanese-Argentine residents every week. There are about 200 nikkeijin
families. He visits the sick even if they are not Catholic. He puts
his motto into practice: I will always respond to people's needs.
"During these past four years the town and the church have changed.
Returning to Japan, I have often been told, 'Father, you have changed.'
I think this is all the working of the Holy Spirit. We aren't doing
anything. It has been four years of experiencing the working of the
spirit of God."
YOUNG CATHOLICS FROM HIROSHIMA AND BUSAN MEET FOR SOCCER MATCHES
Catholic Weekly, October 1
Catholic youth of Hiroshima Diocese paid a visit to their sister
diocese in Korea, Busan, Sept. 15-19 to hold a "Japan-Korea Youth
The Hiroshima Group of 19 consisted of 13 young men ranging in age
from 19 to 26 along with priests and others who led the group. The
games were held at a high school soccer field located next to the Busan
Seminary. In the morning the Japanese played the seminary team, and
in the afternoon they played a team composed of youth from three parishes.
The results were one victory and one tie for the Japanese.
One of the participants, Tanita Noriaki, a 25-year-old parishioner
of the Noboricho Church in Hiroshima, had also been involved in the
Japan-Korea Student Exchange Program held previously in Hiroshima.
"After our warming up exercises, we prayed and then had the kickoff," he
said. "We thought we would be soundly defeated, but we put up a good
fight. We were given a warm welcome by the Korean team."
The Japanese team had expected to return home on Sept. 17, but a typhoon
prevented them from traveling.
According to Tanita, "This made a lot of work for others. We were allowed
to extend our stay at the diocesan accommodations. It was all but impossible
to secure reservations on the return ferry. A Korean priest's words,
'Well, let's pray. All we can do is pray,' left an impression on me.
They really took good care of us."
Plans are now being worked on for the next exchange.
JAPAN DELEGATES TAKE PART IN CONFERENCE ON PHILIPPINE EMIGRANTS
Catholic Weekly, October 1
Two delegates from Japan took part in a Sept. 11-15 conference on the
pastoral care of Filipinos overseas.
The conference, sponsored by the Commission for Pastoral Care for Migrants
and Itinerant People of the Philippine bishops' conference, took place
in Tagaytay, south of Manila. The theme of the gathering was Appraising
the Filipino Diaspora and its Challenges to Evangelization.
Two members of the Japan Catholic Council for Migrants and People on
the Move, Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Sister Yukie Nogami,
secretary of the council, and Franciscan Father Jack Serate, council
member in charge of the pastoral care of Filipinos, attended.
About 40 delegates came from Europe (England, France etc.), Asia (Singapore,
Taiwan, South Korea) and Australia. With the exception of Sister Nogami
and one Italian priest, all the delegates were Filipinos active in
pastoral care overseas. Representatives of the Philippine government's
Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment and
other agencies also attended.
The conference examined the present conditions in the Philippines that
cause an exodus of workers abroad, and the pastoral care migrants can
expect in the nations that accept them.
It also considered the problems that have arisen due to conflict in
the Middle East. Delegates reported on the problems facing migrants
who had no choice but to return to their home towns.
These reports were collated and included in the final statement from
Participants said that the Church in the Philippines must make a greater
effort to raise people's awareness of the problems surrounding emigration.
In addition, more effort is needed in caring for the emigrants and
Those in charge of pastoral care in countries that receive Filipinos
should do everything possible to educate the second generation in the
faith, participants said.
The declaration issued by the conference contained a promise that the
Philippine bishops' conference and Filipinos engaged in pastoral care
overseas will cooperate regardless of national boundaries.
Sister Nogami said, "It was a pity delegates from the Middle East
could not attend. There are villages in the Philippines where more
than 100 migrants have returned all at once. It causes great difficulties."
She added, "The priest in charge of pastoral care in the Kalookan
diocese in Manila reported that they have counseling for the women
who return from Japan and also care for families left behind by workers
who have gone overseas."
CATHOLICS, OTHERS IN KUMAMOTO PRODUCING 18TH-CENTURY OPERA ABOUT JAPANESE MARTYR
Catholic Weekly, October 1
A group in Kumamoto prefecture is planning a production of an 18th-century
opera about the martyrdom of a Japanese Christian.
The Yatsushiro Cultural and Historical Society hopes to sponsor a performance
of the opera Agnes in November 2007. The opera tells the story of the
martyrdom of Agnes Takeda Kana, a Yatsushiro Christian who died in
The project is the brainchild of two men who worked together on the
Catholic Church's Kumamoto district council, Satoshi Nagahama, 62,
of the Yatsushiro Church and Takuya Izuno, 67, of the Musashi-ga-Oka
Church in Kumamoto city. In collaboration with Yatsushiro city and
citizen groups they have worked for the preservation of the site where
Mugishima Castle, Konishi Yukinaga's castle, once stood. They set up
a society in 2003 to honor the memory of Konishi Yukinaga.
According to Nagahama, he once heard from Jesuit Fr. Renzo De Luca,
curator of the Twenty-Six Martyrs Memorial Museum in Nagasaki, that
the libretto of an 18th-century Italian opera, Agnes, was preserved
in the Sophia University library in Tokyo. They secured a copy of the
libretto and showed it to groups of local citizens who agreed to produce
the opera as part of Yatsushiro's history. The opera is being treated
as a community project and enjoys the support of 25 organizations including
The story concerns Agnes, the wife of Takeda Gohei who was executed
in the persecution of Christians in the 17th century. The opera depicts
the struggle that ensues when her family and friends try to persuade
her to abandon her faith and save her life. The libretto calls for
one act and nine scenes, and could take an hour and forty minutes to
stage. The title on the manuscript reads "The Japanese Martyr
Agnes: a Tragedy" and is dedicated to Pope Pius VI.
The first step in preparing the production was to translate the manuscript.
Narrative-centered and tailored to suit a small number of actors, the
libretto is now undergoing its fourth revision. The aim is to preserve
intact the story of the martyrdom but to present it in a way that will
be understood by a modern audience of Christians and non-Christians.
About 60 people attended the auditions for actors and musicians held
at Yatsushiro Church at the end of August. A second round of auditions
is scheduled for October 11. Rehearsals will probably start in November,
once soloists have been chosen.
Nagahama said, "We expect that a professional singer now among
our catechumens will enroll. The Christians are slow to come forward
but this may be the encouragement they need."
Agnes Takeda Kana is one of the 188 martyrs whose cause for beatification
is now under review in Rome.
Izuno said, "It is extraordinary how this libretto appeared just
at the right time. Surely the Holy Spirit is at work."
SACRED HEART UNIVERSITY STUDENTS WORK ON BEHALF OF REFUGEE EDUCATION
Catholic Weekly, September 24
SHRET (Sacred Heart Refugee Education Trust) is an organization of
students at Tokyo's Sacred Heart University who since 2001 have worked
to educate people about the situation of refugees as well as providing
support for them.
The group defines its aim as to provide "Junior-Senior High School
Education for All the Refugees in the World!"
"We are very busy. We can only do so much, given the limits of our situation
as university students, so we get very impatient," said the leader
of the group, Naoko Kaneda, a third-year student. There are 85 students
who make time between classes and study to participate in the project.
The activities are divided into four sections. The "Promotion
Section" conducts workshops for elementary, junior- and senior
high school students. Four times a year they hold workshops for Sacred
Heart students, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. SHRET members educate participants
about the situation of refugees and then they all share their thoughts
and ideas with one another.
The "Action Section" runs the Build a Rainbow Bridge Project
which involves exchanges of letters and videos with Afghan refugees
in Pakistan. This project conducts classes in Tokyo public high schools
twice a month. SHRET members originally came up with the idea for this
project, which they then proposed to an organization in Switzerland
called RET (Refugee Education Trust). They decided to implement the
project. The project also has exchanges with refugees living in Japan.
In addition, there is a "RET Publicity Section," which translates
RET materials into Japanese, and an "Implementation Section," which
runs study sessions and gathers information.
"The situation in these faraway countries is so different from Japan's.
It's really great for the students to have to struggle to grasp
and deal with the situation as persons directly involved," observed
Sacred Heart Sister Minako Yamazaki, who has been watching the students
carry on these activities for five years.
In the course of their activities, the students have to learn about
things like customs procedures, sending packages through the post office
and doing cash transfers. According to the nun, students often say, "I
get desperate, trying to handle these things in English."
"It's an international problem, so they even end up dealing with local
problems occurring overseas. Even though the problems are often quite
difficult to solve, when young people tackle the problems, they often
come up with ways of solving them," she added.
The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) provides
elementary level education for refugees. However, former commissioner
Sadako Ogata declared, "It's necessary for them to receive higher
education" at the time she founded RET in 2000. It was on the
occasion of the visit of the chairperson of RET to Japan that SHRET
came to be founded at Sacred Heart.
With regard to the problem of refugees, Kaneda said, "I realize
that this is not a problem that will be solved tomorrow as a result
of what we do. But I can't just stand still doing nothing. Doing something
is better than doing nothing."
One of the high school students who participated in the Build a Rainbow
Bridge Project reflected, "I learned things that I never knew
"Maybe in the future some of these students will be the ones who can
solve the problem," said Kaneda in an expression of her hope.
OSAKA GROUP SELLS TOWELS FOR SELF-HELP GROUP IN PHILIPPINES
Catholic Weekly, September 17
For 20 years the Philippine Volunteers of Osaka have supported the
Arai Kapua (service to one's neighbors) Christian Community in Pandakan,
the southeast district of Manila. The women of that community knit
towels that the Osaka group sells in Japan.
The Arai Kapua group is a community of 500 families. In order to provide
funds to cover livelihood, medical care and children's education, 22
mothers knit 100-percent cotton towels.
Twice each week, 10 volunteers gather in Amagasaki, Hyogo prefecture,
to wrap towels and send them to supporters all over Japan.
Sister of St. Joseph Yuko Yoshida, founder of Philippine Volunteers, said the
small bag-shaped towels are popular because they do a good job of cleaning dishes
even without soap. She pointed out that buying one bath towel provides a family
of four with meals for one day.
The towels come in five sizes:
Large bath-towels----600 yen
Medium size for cleaning jobs around the house---350 yen
Small size, for dishes---300 yen
Bag-shaped towels for dishes---300 yen
Very small towels---100 yen
The Philippine Volunteers had their beginning in a visit Sr. Yoshida made to
the Philippines in 1984. In Manila she met Sr. Teruko Onoshima of the Society
of Helpers who was working to raise the standard of living of the local people.
They decided to work together.
For details contact Sister Yuko Yoshida, Missionary Sisters of St. Joseph at:
661-0972 Amagasaki-shi, Sho Nakanoshima, 2-17-1. Tel:06-6492-2975.
Fax: 06-6492-8282. E-mail PHV@catholic.ne.jp
CATHOLIC DRUMMER AIDS ZAMBIA, DREAMS OF WRITING JAPANESE DRUM MASS
Catholic Weekly, September 24
Internationally-known Japanese drummer Shuichi Hidano, 37, will
hold a concert Oct. 9, at the Ofuna Church in Kanagawa prefecture
to aid a school in Zambia. Guitarist Takayuki Inoue and harmonica
player Nobuo Yagi, both top-flight musicians, will accompany him.
Zambia is one of the world's poorest nations. The national debt
is greater than the annual budget. Half the population has AIDS.
Average life expectancy is 32.
Hidano's interest in Zambia arose when that country was the last
stop on a tour he made in December 1998 through Europe, the Middle
East and Africa.
On Christmas Eve, he went to a magnificent church close to his hotel.
Gathered in the church, he found groups of people in wretched condition,
more like dolls that someone had abandoned. In a choir of 15 small
children there was one small drummer.
"Their music was staggering," he said. "It exuded
an atmosphere of happiness that pervaded the whole church. The priest
entered to a composed, leisurely rhythm; the sermon called for a
trumpet. Then the children sang to an quiet, easy accompaniment.
I felt the music was falling from heaven and I began to cry."
Since returning to Japan Hidano has held charity concerts several
times a year in cooperation with a Tokushima NGO that sends aid to
Hidano began his musical studies with the classics, and only met
up with the drum at the age of 18. After training with a famous drum
group he moved to his present style which is a mix of western music
and Japanese drumming. He has played in more than 120 concerts, some
of them overseas. In 1998 and 2000 he took part in the closing ceremonies
of the World Soccer Finals.
'When you meet with success overseas you become aware of your identity
as a Japanese," he commented.
Because the drum is a traditional Japanese instrument and because
he is a Christian, Hidano has recently begun to think about the connection
between the Church and traditional Japanese music. He said his interest
began with a tour he made in Germany in 2001.
"I held a concert in a church that was built in 1280, a solemn,
impressive church. It was my first time playing a drum in church.
I had never been invited to until then. And as I played I felt as
if I were floating in mid-air, an emotion I never had before. I was
baptized as an infant, but that day for the first time I felt glad
to be a Christian."
He decided that one day he would put on a drum recital in a Japanese
church, and in 2004 he held a concert in the Ofuna Catholic Church.
"Because we were in church, the congregation could not throw
themselves into it and clap to the rhythm but because of the special
sound effects I was caught up in the music and felt I had achieved
a unity with my audience."
"Fans of mine who are not Christian also come along to the
church. 'Ghost Christians,' if you will, but if its serves to promote
the Church, that's all right too. I am thinking now of ways to create
a uniquely Japanese Mass, a mixture of drums and choir maybe, a drum
In conclusion, the musician said, "Whatever happens, I want
this coming concert to be divine, 'God's own music descending from
Tickets are available from Biento Music at 045-433-7550.
FOR BETHLEHEM FATHERS IN JAPAN, DISAPPEARANCE 'ONLY A MATTER OF TIME'
Catholic Weekly, September 17
Priests of the Bethlehem Foreign Mission Society, with headquarters
in Switzerland, came to Japan in 1948 and since then have devoted themselves
exclusively to evangelization in Iwate prefecture. At present, however,
they have only four priests there.
may disappear altogether," said Fr. Anton Zuger (right), Bethlehem
superior in Japan. "Actually it is only a matter of time. Our
average age is 80 and the Lord may call us at any minute. We can still
help a little, but for how long it is difficult to say."
The 75-year-old priest added, "When we were most numerous, in
the 1960s, there were 25 of us here. At the moment we have only 110
members worldwide. Ninety of them live in Switzerland and of those,
60 are retired."
Fr. Zuger, who came to Japan in 1960, commented on how mission work
"Around 1970, my mother said to me, 'What are you all doing? Your predecessors
were baptizing three or four hundred people a year!' I had to tell
her that our average was 30 or 40. Even at that time we were hearing
our seniors' refrain, 'It wasn't like this in the old days.' But of
course the years immediately after the war were special."
One of the features of the Bethlehem mission in Iwate was the stability
which pastors of parishes enjoyed. They were rarely transferred. A
pastor might work in the same parish for 20 or even 40 years.
"Personally I cannot see why a pastor should be transferred unless
there is some reason," said Fr. Zuger. We drew some criticism, of course,
from people who said things like, 'They think they are in Europe.'"
At the Hanamaki Church, where Fr. August Gaehwiler served for 40 years,
there are 150 people listed in the baptismal register, three of whom
became priests. One of them is Bishop Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai.
Fr. Zuger said he is glad the Bethlehem Fathers came to Japan.
"In the early days we were able to build churches all around Iwate,
but the time has come to pass the baton. We have mixed feelings; there
are so few around to whom we can hand it. That's what hurts."
One sees few young people at church. Indeed, it is a feature of Iwate
prefecture on the whole that young people leave to find employment
"We do not have anyone from the farming or fishing communities among
our Christians," said Fr. Zuger. "They have their family
religion. Our members are mostly teachers or people who have moved
in from other districts."
"Nevertheless, I feel the Church is beginning to pay more attention
to pastoral care for youth. Personally I would like to hand over my
responsibility to someone young."
Fr. Zuger's physician recently told the priest that he is in good shape.
He was delighted, but, he continued, "Christ said to Peter, 'Upon
this rock I will build my Church.' Christ is the builder, not I. I
am not important. What is necessary is to trust Christ and place ourselves
in his hands."
JESUIT RESIDENCE FOR ELDERLY A PLACE TO 'FIND THEMSELVES AT EASE'
Catholic Weekly, September 24
The Jesuits' Loyola House in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, is home to 17 priests
of various nationalities whose average age is 86. Many are under medical
care, and many use a wheelchair to get about.
The two-story building surrounded by trees is open-aired and bright,
combining the atmosphere of a garden and a church. The house has a
barrier-free private rooms with bath, and is provided with facilities
needed to take care of the elderly and the disabled. A nursing team
of more than 20 is on call at all times.
The director of the facility is Brother Kei Nishiyama.
The 37-year-old Jesuit said, "This is a residence to which priests
who have labored their whole lives as educators or pastors are assigned
after they retire. It is not a 'nursing home.' It met with some resistance
in the beginning because it was thought of as an 'old folks' home,'
but when priests actually come and live here they find themselves at
ease. Their mission here is to pray for the Church and the Society
of Jesus. Letters come from around the world asking for prayers for
special intentions. These are an added incentive to prayer. It is our
duty as care givers to respect the desire of each one to be of use
as a priest right to the very end and to ensure that community life
is as smooth as possible."
The schedule of the house is adapted to the needs of the residents.
According to Bro. Nishiyama, "The nursing staff work in shifts,
the first going on duty at 5:00 am to fit in with the morning Mass.
We try to suit meals to individual tastes, the kitchen staff being
careful how they toast bread or fry an egg."
He added that visitors from outside are an important part of life at
"Because we have a free and open atmosphere, volunteers, laity, and
priests' past pupils come visiting. We also have a concert once a week
and even some pottery therapy."
Kayoko Takeuchi, a parishioner at the Jesuit-staffed Kojimachi Church
in Tokyo, has been visiting Loyola House regularly for the past two
years. She spends two to three hours with Fr. Joannes Bezikofer, 86,
who taught her 40 years ago. "We talk and go for a stroll,"she
said. "I am glad to do any little thing that could arrest the
progress of his illness."
Brother Nishiyama explained, "On the Jesuit society's part, this
residence is intended to make the best possible return to its older
members for a lifetime of service. We are able to run the house like
this because we make use of all the medical and health insurance benefits
accorded to the old and ailing. Even the equipment we need can be rented."
Loyola House is one example of a religious society's response to the
needs of its aging members, but not all religious societies can do
as much. Foreign priests and religious may want "to leave their
bones in Japan," but more and more societies find themselves with
no other choice but to return their old and ailing members to their
homelands. For smaller religious congregations, care of the elderly
has become a serious problem.