The Vatican Dicastory for Promoting Integral Human Development designates the second Sunday of July (July 14 t […]
The Vatican Dicastory for Promoting Integral Human Development designates the second Sunday of July (July 14 this year) as “Sea Sunday” and calls on pastors and the faithful around the world to pray for seafarers. The Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move joins this call, asking the Catholics of Japan to unite in prayer for seafarers and their families.
Message for the Day of Seafarers 2019
Like nearly two months on Noah’s Ark
The Church I met when I went from Kobe to the port of Buenos Aires
Where are we going? How will it be?
There is a song I heard when I entered the Salesian minor seminary in Argentina. It was “El Arca de Noé” (Noah’s Ark) with lyrics by Sergio Endrigo and music by Iva Zanicchi which became very popular at the Sanremo Festival in Italy. The lyrics say, “My ship leaves port but I don’t know where it is going, like Noah’s ark.” I listened to the upper classmen singing it and I wanted to sing it too. The priest who was our music teacher had everyone memorize it and we sang it all year. It was in Spanish, but we learned the original Italian refrain, Partirà, la nave partirà / dove arriverà, questo non si sa. / Sarà come l’Arca di Noè… (It will leave, the ship will leave / where it will arrive, is unknown. / It will be like Noah’s Ark …). As the grandparents of many of the fellows had moved to Argentina from Europe, this song united us like a hymn. Each day during soccer practice, more than 60 boys aged 14-18 belted out the song. In my case, the song reminded me of my trip from Japan to Argentina, when I was eight-and-a-half. For my four younger brothers, my 30-something parents and me, our sea journey was like being on Noah’s Ark, heading to a destination we could not even imagine.
Searching out churches at ports along the way
Fifteen years after leaving Japan, when I was a seminarian, my spiritual director recommended a book by the Carmelite Carlos Mesters, Abrahan y Sara (Abraham and Sarah: Faith Experience)[*]. It helped me realize that my father, too, have followed the Call of God to migrate to Argentina. When singing “Noah’s Ark, “ I would recall leaving Kobe on May 31, 1964. We passed through Yokohama, Los Angeles, Panama, Venezuela, Belem, Recife, Santos, Montevideo and on July 20 reached Buenos Aires. As the years pass, I keep a memory of my father. While our ship was anchored in Panama for two days, the two of us went looking for a Catholic church. The church we found was the Basilica of Don Bosco, honoring the patron of Panama, which I later passed many times during the World Youth Day Panama 2019. From then on until we reached Argentina, whenever the Brazil Maru arrived in a port, my father and I or all seven of us would search for a church. I do not think my young parents were able to attend Mass during those two months. But thanks to my father’s broken Spanish, I was able to receive Holy Communion at some of the churches we visited. In addition, we always prayed the Hail Mary or the Rosary in front of the statue of Our Lady.
As of this year, I am the bishop responsible for ministry to seafarers (AOS) and I thank God for the opportunity to share my experience. Let us join one another in prayer for seafarers and their families working on the sea. May our Catholic parishes, especially those in port communities, always be for them places of prayerful welcome and rest.