“Spreading the Gospel” and
Welcoming It in Our
Greetings！I am Fr. Hanafusa, the Pastor of St. Ignatius Church. I am always happy to know that people from different countries and ethnic backgrounds gather every Sunday to attend the English Mass. Coming together to surround one table and participating actively in different initiatives remind me of the early Church.
From Easter 2018 to Lent 2019, we have journeyed living the annual theme, “Spreading the Gospel”. The total number of candidates who received the Rite of Initiation (Baptism) exceeded one hundred. Compared to the usual seventy to eighty, the number has grown significantly. It is very encouraging to see such visible fruition in the year we tried to “Spread the Gospel”. Of course, the spreading of the Gospel is not to be perceived only in such visible numbers. Evangelization does not stop at the end of this fiscal year but is a task that the Church is permanently committed to.
Many of you in the English- speaking community may have been born in a Catholic country, grew up in a Catholic environment from which you have received the faith that you have now. The reasons that brought you to Japan may be varied -work, study, marriage, family ties, etc. but actually, it is the Lord that has led you to Japan. Why? Is it not for you to convey the Good News? Many Japanese have never heard the message of Jesus Christ. You who encounter various people in the places where you work, in your families, or in your schools are the messengers of the Gospel. I would be happy if you continue to be aware of this.
Starting this Easter, the annual theme of the Parish will be “Living Community”. The English- speaking community is a wonderful community, numerous and diverse, but I would be happy if you could further strengthen your awareness to be a true “living community”.
In the past year, there has been a big change in the leadership (Priest and Sisters), which may have created a bit of confusion among some of you. Another change after this Easter is, the priest in charge of the English speaking community will be Fr. Bony James. He is originally from India, a young priest in his early 40s, and will work as Assistant Pastor of St. Ignatius. He will be working for the Parish full-time so you will have the chance to meet him more casually. There are always uncertainties when things change but let us take it as a grace, allowing more people to be involved, and going forward in the spirit of collaboration. I hope you will go forward together, veterans and new comers alike – such as the lately very active Youth Group –, accepting and supporting one other.
In April, a new activity of our parish, the Welcome Table will be launched. This has been inspired by the “Come and See” Group initiated by the English -speaking community. I have been told that some members of the English-speaking community will be among the staff. To be welcoming is accepting people into the community, an attitude for spreading the Gospel. It is very symbolic that such an initiative will be launched at a time of transition from the year in which we have lived Spreading the Gospel, to the one in which we will live Living Community. It would be good if each of us could live the welcoming spirit. Among the people who visit the church, there are many who have come for the first time. Let us have the awareness to warmly welcome these people.
We will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Consecration of the Church this year. In June, as one of the events to commemorate the anniversary, an International Mass is being planned. I would like to ask for your active collaboration so that this celebration will symbolize our community’s unity in diversity. Also, the English- speaking community will take the central role in organizing the Garden Party in July and the Marian Concert in September. I hope that they will be communal gatherings with many Japanese also joining in.
On top of that, there will be visits to Japan, of the Father General of the Society of Jesus in July and Pope Francis in November. Let us seek to journey together as a community open to others as we accept such favorable occasions as chances to spread the Gospel.
Francis Ryuichiro Hanafusa,S.J. Pastor