New Year’s Pastoral Letter Living our Lives with Grateful Hearts

New Year’s Pastoral Letter
Living our Lives with Grateful Hearts

Bishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi, SVD

As we begin a new year, I would like to thank all those who made
a contribution to the special fund for the construction of a new
bishop’s residence and diocesan offices, from those belonging to
the Niigata Diocese, to those from other dioceses, and also to the
religious congregations who generously donated.

The work on the main building has been finished and we moved to
the new residence in November of last year. However, there is still
work to be done on the Vianney Residence Hall, the courtyard,
and on the Cathedral itself and so it will still take some time till
everything is finished.

We plan to hold a ceremony to celebrate the completion of work on
May 10 of this year. With this we can say that since our founding
as a Vicariate (independent mission territory) 100 years ago, we
have become not just self-sufficient but a central figure in the
mission of the Church to spread the Gospel.

It is with this in mind that I plan to fully utilize the residence and
its offices to proclaim the Gospel and minister to the people. A
detailed financial report of the donations and its use in the
construction will be made at a later date and will be available to

Living with Grateful Hearts

The third year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake
and subsequent tsunami will be upon us in just a couple of
months. From the very first days of that tragic event, the Catholic
Church in Japan, with [ All Japan ] as its rallying cry, has lent its
support to the Diocese of Sendai. The help it has shown has come
in the form of volunteers who worked in the affected areas, those
who provided logistical support, those who prayed and those who
gave donations, plus others who gave other forms of support. In
all of these activities, the Church communities have more than
shown the diversity in its members.

Much as I would like to say that with the passage of time the
tsunami affected areas have bounced back, unfortunately that
cannot be stated with some certainty. Catholic volunteer groups
working in areas along the coast have given us regular reports
almost on a daily basis through e-mails, and the consensus is that
the road to recovery will not be a quick one.

Among other things, because of the negative effects of the nuclear
plant accident, there are still places in Fukushima where the
residents cannot yet return to their own homes. There are still a
lot of people who cannot see a clear future, and suffer from
anxiety over health and everyday living conditions. We can only
imagine how many people want to live ordinary lives but cannot
do so even though what hinders them are things they could not
control and was no fault of their own.

Our diocese is one which is in close proximity to the Diocese of
Sendai, and so rather than establishing an office in Niigata itself
to oversee the help we give to Sendai, we deemed it much more
personal and effective to let the parishes help and lend support in
their own way. It is my hope that we will continue to extend a
helping hand in whatever capacity we can to our brothers and
sisters in need of assistance.

Last year in November, typhoon number 30, International name:
Haiyan. (Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines) wrecked havoc in
the Philippines. It specially did heavy damage to the island of
Leyte and its neighboring islands. The death toll was enormous.
We know that there are many Filipinos living in our diocese, and
there are those among them whose relatives and acquaintances
were among the typhoon victims. The various parish communities
and their Filipino parishioners have already begun their
respective drives in order to raise funds and donations for those
affected by this calamity. The community at Shinjo Church have
been televised offering their prayers, and people living in their
vicinity have personally brought their donations to the church.

While Caritas Japan has established a fund for the recovery of the
affected areas, please do not forget our brothers and sisters from
the Philippines who belong to our parishes and give them
whatever support you can offer, be it prayers or material and
financial donations.

During the Great East Japan Earthquake we were given courage
by the solidarity that people from all over the world afforded us.
Our fears turned into hope, and instead of anxiety we were given
peace of mind. During that time, we received from the Philippine
Church messages of support, together with prayers and monetary
contributions. With grateful hearts, let us now remember how
important it is to help and support one another. If we have
received much, let us show our gratitude by practicing our faith
with acts of love for those in need.

During the General Audience of Pope Francis in Nov 6 of last year,
he said the following:

“Without love no gift or charism could serve the Church, for where
there is not love there is an emptiness that becomes filled with
selfishness….that is why it is necessary that love unite us. Our
smallest gesture of love benefits everyone! Therefore, to live out
unity in the Church and communion in charity means not seeking
one’s own interests but sharing the suffering and the joy of one’s
brothers (cf. 1 Cor 12:26), ready to carry the weight of the poorest
and the weakest. This fraternal solidarity is not a figure of speech,
a saying, but an integral part of the communion among
Christians. If we live it, we are a sign to the world, the “sacrament”
of God’s love.”

With a solidarity based on fraternal love, let us work towards
making our church communities a “Sign of God’s Love” by our
loving service for one another.

Living Out our Mission Statement

When we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Niigata Diocese
in October, 2012, we also came out with our Mission Statement.
This was produced as a result of discussions made by the
members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council. This will be our
priority as we start anew the Church’s mission of proclaiming the
Gospel. During the Diocesan Centennial celebrations we received
from many of people their signed mission statements along with
their personal resolutions. We have kept all of these in the
Diocesan Offices. I presume that those who submitted their
signed statements have a copy of their own which they keep in
their person. It is my hope that you look at it once in a while in
order to remind yourselves of your promises and gain renewed
energy in order to fulfill those promises. Let us also pray for God’s
strength as we acknowledge our own weaknesses, so that we
might be given the courage to strive and achieve our goals.

At the beginning of this year, let us once again review our
Centenary Mission Statement

[We, the Catholic Diocese of Niigata, comprising the civil
prefectures of Niigata, Yamagata and Akita, this year mark the
centenary of our foundation as a diocese. We have always striven,
as disciples of the Lord Jesus, to live according to the Gospel, and
to be witnesses of the Gospel while seeking to grow as Church

Though we are a small community in this area, we have tried to
discern and live out our following the way of the disciples of Jesus
as one firmly rooted in the local community.

Building on 100 years of history, we are determined to proclaim
and witness to the value of the Gospel in contemporary society.

As we make our first steps towards the next 100 years, we
proclaim the following points as our priorities.

1. To build “Our Church”, one which is filled with joy and
compassion through overcoming differences created by age,
nationality, and cultural diversity.
2. Realizing the responsibilities of the Catholic Church in society
through exchanges of information within the diocese, districts,
and parishes.
3. To continue to nurture and deepen our faith, so that we may be
witnesses of the Gospel both through our words and deeds in
the midst of contemporary society.

We hereby pledge, encouraged by the witness of Blessed Louis
Uemon Amakasu who heads the 53 Blessed Martyrs of Yonezawa,
our forefathers in faith, that we will face the realities of
contemporary society with courage and through our actions will
strive always to witness to the love of Christ.]

From the day that we had our centennial celebrations, we have
joined the Church worldwide in observing the Year of Faith. As we
spent our days living in the Year of Faith as inheritors of the gift
of faith, we once again reviewed the origins of that faith, and
renewed our belief that “Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord
so as to live with Him (Door of Faith, 10 ), we deepened our
resolve to witness to our faith through our words and actions. In
that time, Pope Francis, a person who embodied living the Gospel
values in word and deed was elected head of the Church. In
addition, the Diocese of Niigata participated in the [Night of
Prayer with our Lady] organized by the Diocese of Rome. A
number of Marian pilgrimage sites were selected from around the
world, with the Handmaids of the Servants of the Eucharist in
Akita being one of them. We were again able to experience the joy
in our faith by joining people around the world in prayer. This
prayer event has only reinforced my belief that the convent is an
essential part of our journey towards spiritual growth in the
diocese. Grateful for the chance to once again examine how we
live out our own faith, let us renew also our commitment to be
proclaimers of the Gospel of Christ.

In conclusion

As we begin the new year, we also have new things happening in
the Diocese. In the Nagaoka District of Niigata Prefecture, the
parishes of Omotemachi and Fukuzumi in Nagaoka City have
merged to become the Nagaoka Catholic Church. We formally
inaugurated the new parish with a celebration of the Holy
Eucharist on Jan. 5. The two parishes have rich histories and
traditions, and I believe that it was a big decision for them to
agree to this merger. Many factors were considered including the
lack of priestly ministers, the aging parish population,
transportation convenience, and the management and
maintenance of the buildings. It was only after a series of
consultations from both parishes over a number of years, and
after consultations with me as head of the Diocese, that the
committee in charge was finally able to submit a plan to merge
the two parishes. The decision was for the church in Omotemachi
to be the new parish center. I would like to express my gratitude
to those who made the difficult decision to merge with courage
and with love, at the same time acknowledging that the decision
was not without pain and sacrifice.

Vocations to the priesthood remain at dangerously low levels. Of
course, it is the Lord who calls so this is not a problem we can
solve on our own. However, it may be the case that there are
young people in our Diocese who just are not aware yet that they
are being called. Let us continue to pray for vocations to the
priesthood and the religious life and that the young people who
are called might find the courage to answer God’ s invitation.

On April 29 of this year, there will be a meeting of the Diocesan
Pastoral Council. We would like to already request the delegates
to prepare reports on the outcome of the various activities during
the recently concluded Year of Faith, and the efforts being made
on the priorities of the Diocese. It has also come to our attention
that parish councils in the diocese have various ways of managing
their respective parishes. We would like to have time to exchange
ideas as to whether it would be good to adopt just one
management system or whether we need to come up with a totally
new system of parish management. We would like the members of
the Diocesan Pastoral Council to gather the opinions of their
respective constituents already as preparation.

Once again, may God the Father in heaven, who is merciful and
loving , shower everyone with abundant blessings specially at the
beginning of this new year.