Pastoral Letter @

Reflections on the Episcopal visitation of the Collaborative Ministry for Mission Blocks, 2002


Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, June 1, 2003

Paul Otsuka Yoshinao


Since April 2001 all 57 parishes of Kyoto diocese have been grouped into 14 blocks to work together at collaborative ministry for Mission. In 2002 I made an official episcopal visitation of these blocks, rather than individual parishes, for the first time. To make an assessment of this visitation I held a regional meeting in each of the five regions of the diocese during February and March of this year. On those occasions I gave an evaluation of each block's progress towards Collaborative Ministry for Mission and the various tasks they need to tackle. I think you will have heard about that report. Also, since I distributed a print at each regional meeting I refer you to the one for your region. In this pastoral letter I have gathered together some overall impressions about the progress of the diocese towards Collaborative Ministry for Mission which I would like to share with you all.


1.  Overall Impressions and Points I Noticed


@         The Willingness of the Faithful


On the whole there was a good attendance at Mass on the day of visitation and I felt that there was enthusiasm for Collaborative Ministry for Mission among the priests, religious and the faithful together. It is also true, however, that in some blocks the number of people taking part was small compared to the total number of Christians and that there was a lack of interest in or willingness to learn about Collaborative Ministry for Mission.


A     The Foundations of Collaborative Ministry for Mission


I felt that all the blocks, although their circumstances differ and they are dealing with different kinds of problems, have a good grounding in Collaborative Ministry for Mission.@I think that, through the preparation of episcopal visitation and listening to my address on the day itself, people have understood very well that Collaborative Ministry for Mission is something chosen by the diocese and that to put it into effect a reform of our consciousness of the Church is necessary.


B      Bible-Based Prayer and Study


I was delighted to find an awareness that to bring about Collaborative Ministry for Mission as a reformation of Faith biblically based prayer and study are necessary and pleased to see examples of this being put into practice.


C@    Evangelization and the Particular Circumstances of the Local Area


With regard to Church activities I felt that, even more than before, there was an awareness of  the particular circumstances of the local area and that there was a stronger sense of trying to respond to these and enliven the local community. I could mention, for example, Christians taking part in local events, cooperating with people of different religions, making church facilities available for local activities, working as volunteers in local welfare institutions and with groups of handicapped people, as well as showing solidarity and interacting with foreigners living in Japan. All these initiatives are to be highly commended.


D@     The Degree of Involvement in Church Administration


There was discussion to help one another's awareness of Collaborative Ministry for Mission at a wide range of different levels, from the parish council to ad hoc groups of Christians.


E@  Differences in the Degree of Involvement of the Priests


I gained the impression of a considerable difference from region to region in the extent to which there is regular discussion among the priests, and between the priests and the Christians, about Collaborative Ministry for Mission. There are some places where there is insufficient cooperation, division of roles and shared understanding among the clergy; I think it is necessary for the priests to study together, and reach a new shared awareness and trust between one another.


F      The Method of Measuring our Progress towards Collaborative Ministry for Mission.


Most places prepared for episcopal visitation by putting together a questionnaire and using the results of this to provide material for discussion and sharing. It is important to consider whether  or not these were devised on the basis of evaluating our progress towards Collaborative Ministry for Mission, but the choice of questions , the relatively small number of respondents as well as the analysis of the results were sometimes problematic so that, I think, discussion and sharing were often off the point.


G@     Christian Formation within the Block


There are some blocks where the on-going formation of the Christians is inadequate. Such emphasis@is placed on Church events that it seems there is no room for learning about the faith or increasing our awareness of evangelization. To empower ourselves to be an evangelizing community  we must make discernment about the present situation and, when planning church activities from now on must choose carefully as to which tasks we will give priority.


2.@Things Learned


@      The Stages on the Way to Collaborative Ministry for Mission


I have come to understand that, as a first principle, that there are different stages of Collaborative Ministry for Mission. These are (1) the stage of having joint events in the block, (2) the stage of two way interaction between the priests in charge and the parish council members, (3) the stage of cooperative block relationships which transcend parish boundaries, (4) the stage at which the Christians of the block have shared aims and a joint policy for evangelization, (5) the stage at which each person's practical evangelization can be discerned and evaluated by the community. The aim is that, little by little, as each stage is achieved we will build on that progress to the next stage.


A      What we Mean by the "Implementation" of Collaborative Ministry for Mission


Concerning what "implementing" Collaborative Ministry for Mission means I must make use of the distinction described below. Simply expressed, the movement we call "Collaborative Ministry for Mission" begins, spreads and is animated by "decision making" and by "Church activities".

So far as implementing Collaborative Ministry for Mission is concerned "decision making" comes first. Within the block, and within each parish, decisions about the day to day running of the organization, reflection upon and improvement of activities must be made by a process which allows the priests and the faithful to share responsibility; a process which results in gco-ownershiph of ministry and is characterized in its spirit and form by cooperation between priests and people.

After this comes implementation of Collaborative Ministry for Mission through "Church activities". This means each of the Christians seeing themselves as missionaries and taking a positive role in activities geared to evangelization. There are different levels of activity: the individual level (participating in various activities within the Church as well as in the wider society apart from the Church); the small group level (volunteer groups within the Church, etc.); parish work-sharing (Liturgy, notices and communication, Sunday school etc)Gactivities of the whole parish (pastoral planning for the parish or cooperation with other parishes and non-Church organizations). Over and above these@evangelical activity can take place at block or regional level, at the diocesan level as well as at the level of the whole of Japan or the Church throughout the world: truly there is a great variety. When everyone, at no matter what level, is taking a positive role the community will become an evangelizing community.


3.  How to Implement Collaborative Ministry for Mission More Strongly from Now on.


@       Teamwork, Leadership and Sharing of Talents among the Priests

In Collaborative Ministry for Mission instead of one priest being commissioned to take responsibility for a parish community a group of priests is given joint responsibility for all the parishes within a block; they are appointed as a team and it is essential that they be united and work together as a team. Especially in places where people have not yet assimilated the idea of Collaborative Ministry for Mission this group of priests should reorganize and encourage the differing talents each one has and, as pastors, show leadership collectively.


A       A gProgramme of Christian Formationh for Reform of Consciousness and for Faith Development


There should be a programme of Christian instruction geared to the needs of Christians who live in the modern world, and are sent to spread the gospel in it, which deals with fundamental issues like "What is faith?", "What is the Gospel?", "What is the Church?". "What does Baptism mean?" and "What is the role of the Christian?". This will be the basis on which we provide Christian leaders for the future and the means by which we hand on the faith to the next generation. I ask all those involved in the Diocesan Evangelization Centrefs formation programmes, as well as formation programmes organized by the Regional Councils, Block Councils and Parish Councils to take care in planning them and to make sure people avail of them.


B@    Discernment within the Church


Part of the process of analyzing the actual situation of the community and deciding where the problems lie and what kind of renewal is necessary is "discernment". This discernment within the Church community takes place when, by the light of the Holy Spirit, we have realized that change is necessary and with his help we decide together about in which direction to move and what kind of changes are to be made.


C@The sense of "Solidarity" which characterizes Collaborative Ministry for Mission


When we talk of Collaborative Ministry for Mission it is important to realize that we imply the consciousness and activities of the individual Christians are bound together in a spirit of evangelical cooperation and service. What the community called " * * Catholic Church" is, and all the Christians who constitute it are commissioned to do is nothing if not Evangelization.  Telling one another, in solidarity, about our evangelical work and the evaluation and discernment of it by the community is, therefore, becoming more and more important. Up to the present we have relied on the faith and action of individuals and there was little awareness of the faith of the community, but from now on let us change our way of thinking and look at  each Christian's activity as a matter of community discernment.


D@Developing a new way of evangelizing


Are we, who are part of present day society, in possession of the proper motivation for and means of evangelizing it? Do we who live the midst of a society which gives priority to economic matters, where the reality is that there is anxiety and a feeling of being closed in about where we are heading, a feeling that even by tomorrow the very foundation of our lives may be lost, do we really have the motivation to hand on our belief, tangible or otherwise, that  we were  born into this world and given life as a gift from God, that we have in our everyday lives a joy springing from the gospel? I think that a new way of evangelizing does not consist solely in new methods and techniques but must have as its starting point a new way of living: a change of heart. Let us make our objective the happiness of people and the evangelization of society and search together, with an eye to the gospel, for a new and practical way of spreading that gospel.


E Forming a Community with foreigners living in Japan


If we think of the Church from the point of view of its being a sign of the Kingdom of God then truly there are no "foreigners" as far as the Church is concerned.

All the people who are living the same Catholic faith, even though of different nationalities, who face the challenge of being able to make discernment together in the light of the gospel and being sent out as missionaries present an image of the Church as the People of God journeying towards their final goal. Let us take up the challenge of having closer interaction with the foreigners living in Japan and of building a society in which different cultures can live harmoniously together.


F Experiencing the Community of Faith


As I said in my New Year Pastoral Letter this year let us, by the process of everyone sharing one anotherfs joys and sufferings, cares and pains, change from a community whose members belonged to the Church for the sake of looking after their own faith to a community in which each of us is being transformed by God and helping each other to mature in the faith. We are aiming to experience this community of faith not only at the parish level but, over and above this, at the broader level of the block. Whilst implementing Collaborative Ministry for Mission may each block, as a gChurch which walks together with societyh, open to the wider world outside, develop into a community which energetically evangelizies its local area.


A Word of Thanks


During last year's block visitation I genuinely felt that many of the faithful and all the priests and religious were responding wholeheartedly to the challenge of being called to Collaborative Ministry for Mission. I was moved by the sight of so many struggling with burdens and defeat, experiencing the joy of cooperation and success as they came to grips with this movement called Collaborative Ministry for Mission for the sake of the Church they love. This year, once again, I am carrying out an Episcopal visitation of each block. I have chosen as a special theme, "Let us think together about Faith Education". Let us reaffirm our important vocation of handing on the faith to the next generation and think, also, about the on-going Christian formation of adults.@Let us pray to Jesus, in this year of the Rosary, through Mary the Mother of the Church, calling her to mind as she appears in the bible, for wisdom and courage for evangelization.

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