Grappling with a “New Collaborative Effort”
(This abridged article was first published in the June issue of MAGIS, the monthly Japanese magazine of St. Ignatius Church. With the “first step of the reopening of Churches” in the Archdiocese of Tokyo, the article of our Pastor may well be a catalyst for the creation of a new way of “being Church” in these pandemic times and beyond).
Due to the new coronavirus, all church activities have been halted for nearly three months. As this abnormal situation continues, we are not able to offer Mass along with the laity. Even after State of Emergency was lifted, we have only been able to restart a very limited number of activities.
In this situation, something came to mind. After my appointment here, there was a meeting of religious clergy. Someone proposed that the parish was too busy with too many activities and wondered if something might be done about it. Actually, there really were too many activities each day, and the council members were truly overburdened. It was suggested that all activities be halted and put under review for one year. However, no agreement could be reached about this proposal and it never materialized.
Because of this experience, I became acutely aware of the urgent need for a review of our parish activities. This opportunity came when we started a Church Activities Review Workshop,which eventually became the “Mission 2030 Plan of Action.” At the beginning, Mission 2030 was actually a plan for a one-year activity hiatus. This year, that plan for a one-year hiatus seems miraculously to be coming to the foreground. I feel that this is a mysterious judgement from Our Lord.
Based on the church's Mission 2030 Plan of Action, let’s use this time as an opportunity to review our parish activities and events. The theme for this year is “A New Collaborative Effort.” From April until now, explanatory articles have been written. Within those articles are some concrete events which we will not be able to implement, but I think it is possible to deepen the spirit behind them. Let’s look again, with new awareness, at how we can work together.
First, please look back over all the various themes up until now. 1) Deepening Prayer 2) Spreading the Gospel 3) Living Community. We have deepened our awareness of these, but we must now apply them afresh precisely in our present situation.
In a church where everyone cannot freely participate in the Mass, each one of us must deepen our prayer life. Can we figure out how to live, have faith, and pray in a church without Masses?
When it comes to spreading the Gospel, we often think of introductory classes, but we cannot hold such classes now. However, in this situation, we all still have our individual mission to spread the Gospel. How might we spread the Gospel in a situation where our chances to be near others directly are severely limited? And as a first premise we must consider how, in this limited situation, we might be able to live out the Gospel. Our living out of the Gospel always takes place where we are at present. In our present context, with what sort of attention and practice can we achieve?
- The largest challenge resides in how we are to live as a community. While we cannot be near our parish friends, how can we retain the bonds of community?
If we can newly recapture these three themes (Prayer, Gospel, Community), we may be able to see how best to collaborate with a new awareness.
As with any theme, there are large hurdles, but our present difficult situation challenges us all to work harder to figure things out. With faith as our foundation, we can look at the present situation positively and new roads may be found.
For my part, I will continue to seek answers. But I wish to gather wisdom from all of you as well. I am welcoming any interesting ideas or practices. Please e-mail or mail a letter to the church directly. I will continue to update you all with ideas via this MAGIS magazine.
By Fr. Hanafusa Ryuichiro, SJ Translated by Ryan Hicks