Niigata (AsiaNews) - The Eighth General Assembly of the Niigata Diocesan Pastoral Council met recently to discuss the challenges faced by the local Catholic community. They include building 'Our Church' with migrants as members of the Catholic family and not as simple guests; working together to provide the laity and priests a religious education through continuous contact and sharing; and contributing to evangelisation in the diocese and the country.
Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi convened the meeting with representatives from the diocese's five districts - Akita, Yamagata, Shibata, Niigata and Nagaoka - to discuss these issues and lay out a pastoral plan for the coming year. Some 22 people attended the assembly with each district sending two lay councillors and a priest. Women religious and the diocesan women association were also represented.
Set up in 2004, the Pastoral Council serves the community, addressing issues and local initiatives in order to strengthen the unity of the local Church.
As Mgr Kikuchi put it, its priorities include building a Church that "is filled with joy and compassion by overcoming differences created by age, nationality and cultural diversity; [. . .] realising the responsibilities of the Catholic Church in society through exchanges of information within the diocese, districts and parishes;" and continuing "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."
Such a concept of Church is very important because "a significant number of migrant Catholics [who live] in our parish communities [. . .] have been treated for many years like 'guest' and not as members of the 'family'. Many of them came to Japan from Philippines to marry Japanese spouses, mainly local farmers, and settled down as wives and mothers of many kids. So it is a must for us to make them feel at home."
Similarly, "there are number of non-Japanese Catholics in this diocese who have been making significant contributions in social activities and in the field of education."
What is more, many "migrant Catholics are missionaries sent by God to Japan, especially to areas where the traditional parish system is non-existent;" and where "they are making a significant contribution to evangelisation."