Looking to the Future of Kyoto Diocese:
We're aiming at
Collaborative Ministry for Mission

New Year's Day, 2001
Paul Otsuka Yoshinao, Bishop of Kyoto


@By getting to grips with Collaborative Ministry for Mission, a way of making the church into a community, Kyoto Diocese is trying to turn itself and its various parishes into an evangelizing church which will be appropriate for the coming age.

@At present there are 57 parishes in the diocese and from April of this year, to coincide with this year's changes in the appointments of priests, all 57 will be officially grouped into Collaborative Ministry for Mission regions.  In other words, since every parish will belong to one of these regions, there will no longer be any completely independent parishes.  A total of 37 "full-time priests holding responsibility" and four "part-time supporting priests" will be appointed to these Collaborative Ministry for Mission regions. 

@Thinking about the future of Kyoto Diocese, as we give thanks at the end of the Great Holy Year to celebrate 2,000 years since the birth of Christ and set out into the first century of a new millennium, I would like to use the occasion of this New Year Pastoral Letter to speak to every Christian of the diocese about Collaborative Ministry for Mission and to ask for your understanding and cooperation in making it happen.

@Even before now, when an opportunity has presented itself in the diocese, I have had occasion to explain to all of you something about Collaborative Ministry for Mission.  In this diocese Collaborative Ministry for Mission began nine years ago when the first Collaborative Ministry for Mission region was inaugurated in 1991. If we count the period of preparation before that time it is now almost ten years since we began hearing about it.  From time to time it has been taken up as the theme of articles in the Diocesan Newsletter and of study days both for clergy and for laity.  From April, however, when finally all the parishes will be directly involved in it, it is important that every church and all the Christians should be thinking about it in the same way and from the same standpoint. It would be impossible to explain everything about Collaborative Ministry for Mission in a single letter so I would like to concentrate, in this letter, on a few basic points which are especially important at this time when we - everyone in the diocese - begin to work together towards realizing it.

1. The Objective of Collaborative Ministry for Mission

@The most important objective of engaging in Collaborative Ministry for Mission is to transform the Japanese Catholic Church radically, even more than has ever before, into an evangelizing church. To achieve this primary objective the various parishes, by putting into practice Collaborative Ministry for Mission which is a movement for renewing the Church community, will need to become gMission-oriented Church Communitiesh. Collaborative Ministry for Mission is not, then, simply a policy of last resort by which a small number of priests can undertake the pastoral care of a large number of parishes; an expedient made necessary because the number of priests has fallen short of the number of parishes.

@Certainly we cannot deny that the first stimulus which led to the introduction of Collaborative Ministry for Mission was the diminishing number of priests.  During the last nine years, however, as Kyoto diocese has gradually promoted Collaborative Ministry for Mission in   practice and tried to find solutions for the various problems which have arisen, we have come to see that there are more positive objectives than overcoming a shortage of priests.  These and the urgent tasks they bring with them are a challenge to
Collaborative Ministry for Mission

@For example, comparing Collaborative Ministry for Mission and the system of ga parish priest in every parishh which has prevailed up to now we can see the limitations of the former system and work to overcome them. We can also push ahead more radically with the practice and development of the lay apostolate which has been strongly emphasized since Vatican II.  Similarly, the fact that the Church with its rising age structure, absence of young people and falling numbers etc., is far from healthy becomes very much more apparent.

@Furthermore, meeting he evangelical needs of Japanfs ever more complicated and pluralistic Society - e.g. the need for humane assistance of foreign residents, the demand for pastoral service by lay Christians, etc. - constitutes a near insurmountable challenge for an individual church.  In view of the awareness the Catholic Church is gaining from society at large, however, once again Collaborative Ministry for Mission would seem to be the most effective way of dealing with the various tasks and problems which the Japanese Church is grappling with and solving at the present time.  As a result of our nine years of experimentation with Collaborative Ministry for Mission at least this kind of discernment is gradually spreading among both priests and people.

2. Collaborative Ministry for Mission and gStreamlining of Parishesh are Not the Same

@The introduction of Collaborative Ministry for Mission is not intended as a preparation for the amalgamation of parishes.  If there are those among you who are preoccupied by this anxiety and feel, therefore, that you cannot fully cooperate with Collaborative Ministry for Mission I ask you first of all to correct that misapprehension and try to grasp its proper meaning.  Because the first objective of Collaborative Ministry for Mission is to become an evangelizing Church we donft have in mind the idea of using it as a means of combining several small parishes to make one great big one.  In order to achieve Collaborative Ministry for Mission there is no need to put aside the unique flavour, particular history and valued traditions which make up the individuality of any parish.

@If, however, among the various activities which should take place in any parish there are things we cannot, as a small church, manage to do we can and should, without detriment to our individuality, achieve these things jointly with the other parishes in the region.  Within the church community these activities might include liturgical planning, faith development courses or the pastoral care of foreigners and their integration into our community.  In cooperation with the wider society they might include welfare work, Justice and Peace activities and volunteer work etc.

@I would also like to say quite frankly, however, that for reasons other than achieving Collaborative Ministry for Mission it may become necessary to amalgamate parishes in order to have a proper distribution of churches within the diocese.

3. Collaborative Ministry for Mission is a Reformation of Faith

@Well then, why is the gParish Priest Systemh inadequate to the task of bringing about an evangelizing Church?  Why are we embarking upon Collaborative Ministry for Mission now?  In order truly to grasp the notion of Collaborative Ministry for Mission we have keep in mind the fact that it is a gReformation of Faithh.  What I mean is that the stagnation, or impasse of our Japanese church requires that we Christians reinvigorate our way of seeing or understanding our gfaithh.

@The purpose of Collaborative Ministry for Mission is to become an evangelizing church.  Strictly speaking a church that does not evangelize becomes vacuous; a mere shadow of its true self. To say that faith, or being a believer, is what we are now is inviting the demise of the Church. How we see the Church depends on how we see our faith. So now, when the whole of Kyoto diocese is united in wanting to walk together, the most fundamental reasons why we cannot make progress is that we fail to ascertain our shared notion of faith and an unconscious lack of openness towards our faith. If we look back in history at some stage of our faith education became a matter of how I can maintain gmy faithh. And the Church was administered with the mentality gOutside the Church there is no salvationh.  As a result of this Christians of subsequent ages saw life against a dualistic backdrop that distinguished between an ideal life of faith and the deeply sinful way of life of Society at large.

@When all is said and done to talk of faith in terms of maintaining gmy faithh, or to have a concept of the Church as gmy Churchh, itself betrays a strange way of thinking.  The faith is not something I have devised but something which has been handed on to me.  Faith refers first of all the deposit of faith guarded by the Catholic Church, and the Church is the assembly of those who, given as a first premise the unconditional grace of God, have freely accepted that faith and hand it on.  This content of the Churchfs faith is the same as that the disciples received from Jesus.  Divine Revelation, Godfs all embracing plan to save the whole of creation by his own initiative, was realized in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  The disciples recognized in Jesusf lifelong witness to the gGood News of the Kingdom of Godh the plan of God the Father. Precisely because they realized, through the events of his death and resurrection that took place in Jesusf earthly life, that those events were what determined their own salvation they were able to overcome countless sufferings to tell the whole world about Jesus. The Church takes as the content of its faith gJesusf Good News of the Kingdom of Godh which derives from gJesus death and Resurrectionh and Salvation from God the Father handed on by the disciples. It stands to reason, therefore, that the Church will struggle in the same way as the disciples to find ways of communicating this as easily as possible to the people and Society of its own day and age.

@The Church, which is the assembly of believers, realizes its raison dfetre precisely when it makes its objective the handing on of the faith. In other words the Church is essentially a missionary body.  Furthermore Christians and the Church have a social existence. When the faith which we each hand on is directed at Society, therefore, because of our fellowship, doesnft gmy faithh become gour faithh with a social dimension; the faith of the individual changed into the faith of the Church?  And isnft the Church, then, a gChurch for everyoneh in that society? I think this is something we should always be reminding one another of as we work to renew our faith and the Church.

4. What is Collaborative Ministry for Mission?

@Next I will try to answer practically the question, gWhat is Collaborative Ministry for Mission?h  The name contains the word ecollaborativef and this means that all the widely different members of the church will run it together, collaboratively. This ecollaborationf will be put into practice at every level of church activity.

@The ultimate starting point for parish Collaborative Ministry for Mission is that the priests themselves work as a team. Up to now there has always been a Parish Priest appointed to a parish (sometimes with one or more curates to help). In that case this single Parish Priest made practically all the decisions about what was to be done in the parish. In the case of Collaborative Ministry for Mission several priests form a team and, as a team of priests, decide about each memberfs role and divide up their responsibility to provide priestly leadership. In Collaborative Ministry for Mission the priests do not achieve their ministry of service to the Church community as eindividual playersf; they relate to the Christian community as a team. In this way they will be able to compensate for one anotherfs lack of ability and physical limitations in giving leadership.

@In the regional community the priests also work together (collaborate) with the Laity and Religious in providing Ministry for Mission. When this team at the core of the community meets, they will work together to set out a basic policy of Collaborative Ministry for Mission and a specific Pastoral Plan and they will make plans for the day to day affairs of the parish. Furthermore they will consult with as many of the parishioners as possible about these plans so that it will be the whole Church community that makes decisions. Whatever has been decided will put into practice everyone and their activities evaluated as a community. In this way and the process of always discerning together about each activity the parish engages in, the fellowship among all the members of the parish and their working together at missionary activity, will all become an indispensable part of Collaborative Ministry for Mission.

5. The Spirituality of Collaborative Ministry for Mission

@The most fundamental concept for understanding Collaborative Ministry for Mission is, therefore, ecollaborationf. So that every level of the Church community (Priestsf team, Parish team, region, the whole diocese) can fulfil their particular vocation they share responsibility. When running things, making decisions about activities, putting these into practice or evaluating them by themselves they will always do what has been gdiscernedh by the whole parish community. This is the Collaborative Ministry for Mission way of thinking which grows out of ecollaborationf which we may call the Spirituality of Collaborative Ministry for Mission.

@In essence, Collaborative Ministry for Mission is about discerning together as a community before gdoing things togetherh and afterwards, if there is something more you can do together, planning that and putting it into action. Simply gdoing something togetherh doesnft constitute Collaborative Ministry for Mission. Certainly there is meaning and purpose in doing things together. For example if we do a retreat together, or run a childrenfs camp together we avoid the negative effect of small numbers. If we work together on a larger scale we not only avoid wasted effort but our activities become much more effective and significant. It is precisely because of Collaborative Ministry for Mission that we are able to achieve something more easily but in the final analysis that is not what Collaborative Ministry for Mission sets out to do.

@When they are working to bring about Collaborative Ministry for Mission the priests, religious and laity together are deepening the fellowship within the parish community. What they are aiming for whilst doing pastoral and missionary work through Collaborative ministry is to change the traditional mentality, which can be seen in pastoral work up to now, that gthe priest is the leader and the laity are dependent upon himh. They will also take a radical new look at the missionary methods associated with this mentality so that the parish community will be able to achieve in this age, by responding to the problems of modern society and the evangelical needs of its own area, the missionary vocation that the Church has recognized as essential from its earliest days.

6. Limitations of the Traditional System of Pastoral Care and the gParish Priest Systemh.

@In order to understand what we mean by collaboration let's try thinking about the differences between Collaborative Ministry for Mission and the Parish Priest System. In the former system there was, in any individual church (parish), a single priest, appointed by the bishop to that one church, with the title eParish Priestf. He was seen as literally supervising and leading the church on behalf of the bishop, he made all the decisions about parish activities and he alone carried the entire burden of responsibility for it. This system has continued right up to the present day.

@From the point of view of deciding what a church should do this eParish Priest Systemf was probably quite sufficient in an age where the image of the church conformed to a ePastoral Modelf.  The parishioners received spiritual care from their            priest and their faith-life was completely passive. On the other hand the priest had a very  active role principally in administering the sacraments (the Mass) then teaching catechism to catechumens, leading a Scripture study group or individually counseling people with problems of one form or another. The relationship between the priest and his parishioners was determined by this difference between them. Church finances as well as all the parish activities and events, even to the point where one man was unable to cope, were decided by the parish priest alone and overwhelmingly the parishioners passively accepted his decisions.

@From the point of view of evangelization, even well after Vatican II, although there was instruction and baptism of catechumens, over and above that there was little to be seen by way of what we now describe as the gevangelization of Society itselfh.

@Difficulties arose out of this situation. To mention just one, when the Parish Priest was replaced the whole direction of parish policy was likely to change suddenly according to the way of doing things preferred by the incoming Parish Priest. The laity would become bewildered but, although they lived there beyond the tenure of any parish priest and were devout Christians, they had no independent responsibility for the management of their own church and its missionary policy. In the end they were at the mercy of the whims of a single priest and could not maintain a consistent long-term pattern of Church activities.

7. The Way of the Post-Vatican II Church

@Since Vatican II, even under the old system of Parish Priests, there has gradually emerged a wish to move towards a community consistent with principles such as gProminence of the Laityh or gCooperation of Clergy and Laityh. It seems, however, to be taking an inordinately long time for a really lively and boldly challenging evangelizing Church to appear. The teaching of the Council that the Church should grenew itself so as to be open to the modern worldh showed the Church a way forward which was like asking a person to change his mind completely. But the although the eheadf has changed we have as yet to see this reflected in a physical change in the body of Christ. Collaborative Ministry for Mission is, little by little, changing the old shape of the Church.

@The most important thing is to have a feeling for the Spirit of the Age. At the close of the violent twentieth century both Mankind as a whole and Japanese Society, politically, socially, culturally or in whatever field of human endeavour are facing a period of transition to a new age. In the world at large and in Japan the fact that the former system is falling apart is being exposed, and we are living in the present age with a feeling of uncertainty about the future. It was precisely because the Catholic Church was also acutely aware of this transition to a new age that, at the instigation of pope John-Paul II, it seized the opportunity of the preparing for and celebrating the Great Holy Year as a way of reflecting on our past sins and faithlessness in order to make a fresh start as a Church fitted to the new millennium.

8. Collaborative Ministry for Mission and the Identity of the Church

@By reflecting in this way the Church has been made to think again about the meaning of the mission of salvation entrusted to it by Christ. In the present age the Church is reaffirming its raison dfetre. It is discovering itself as part of gsalvation historyh which is based on a theology of being called and sent (vocation and mission). God chose to accomplish his works for the salvation of mankind by means of choosing from among them and calling to service a small number of representatives. The ultimate representative is Jesus; before him came the people of Israel and after him the New Testament Church, his beneficiary.

@In Japan especially, rather than being taken up with the Church's special circumstance as just a very small group within society, we should see ourselves as ministers specially chosen to represent the true People of God. We can see this as the special vocation of the Japanese Church to work in a missionary environment. Because of that, we bear witness with conviction, before Japanese Society and the rest of the modern world which are indifferent towards gospel values, as especial ministersf for bringing a gospel of hope to the present age.

In this way the experiment with Collaborative Ministry for Mission will give us the courage to ask certain simple questions and to answer them candidly and without regret with the wisdom which comes from honesty. These would be questions like why (in a Japan with so few Christians) am I a Catholic; what, after all, is the Church; apart from having a building in which we gather to worship what ought this small Japanese community to be doing?

9. A Chance for the Japanese Church to become Self-Supporting

@A basic reason for choosing Collaborative Ministry for Mission is the realization that the time has come for the Japanese Church to become self-supporting.  Today in many churches, because of a falling off in the number of parishioners or the rising age-structure of their members, the system of raising funds for church maintenance is         beginning to crumble.  Particularly churches which, after the war, were supported from abroad by religious orders and missionary societies, both financially and in terms of manpower, need to become self-sufficient in every way.

@Because we have decided to commit ourselves whole-heartedly to achieving Collaborative Ministry for Mission even supposing the number of priests should increase the movement towards Collaborative Ministry for Mission will not be abandoned.  Nor should we be afraid if, whilst finding our way, we suffer failures of one kind or another; we will accept these as the ordinary pain - the birth pangs - which accompany any change. It is        important that we understand pain and failure as the efoodf of a new awareness.  Since our objective is not quickly to set up a perfectly running system of Collaborative Ministry for Mission we should be careful to avoid the danger of deciding, gWe have achieved it!"  Because we are continually seeking to discover Collaborative Ministry for Mission many new problems and tasks will arise as we progress. Theological research into Collaborative Ministry for Mission, new developments in our understanding the gPriesthood of the Laityh, individual Christians taking greater responsibility, the forging within the church community of new roles for priests and laity, real leadership from the clergy, the relationship between the community and different kinds of ministers, and the development of new and better ways of discerning within human groups etc. will all lead to as yet unforeseeable situations.

10. Having an awareness of being the ePeople of the Diocesef in order to make greater progress towards realizing the Vision for Kyoto Diocese

@Kyoto Diocese, in order to live and hand on the gospel in an energetic manner, has chosen, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to become an evangelizing church community by promoting Collaborative Ministry for Mission. We chose this path after re-appraising and intensifying the Vision for Kyoto Diocese - A Church Walking Together with Society ? promulgated in November1981 and with a keen understanding of Modern Society, the Church and people of faith. To further Collaborative Ministry for Mission, as we make progress in the midst of mistakes and setbacks,   I ask every single member of the diocese to cultivate an awareness of being part of the  ePeople of the Diocesef and begin seriously to implement Collaborative Ministry for Mission. It is essential that we have an awareness of our own parish and what sort of group it is.  Before the local name of every church, however, the word eCatholicf is written. This is a statement of intent, I think, by which we tell people that, as members of the community of Kyoto Diocese - the Regional Church which holds on to the same deposit of faith and accepts the same church order as the Catholic Church throughout the World - we exist in order to hand on that same faith to the people in our locality.

@To say the same thing again, what gives meaning  to the Churchfs existence is handing on the faith. In order that the gospel of the Kingdom of God which Jesus proclaimed be handed on in the best possible way for the present time in the various districts of Kyoto Diocese, the regional Church, we need to look beyond the confines of our            own parish.  It is perfectly obvious that we need to adapt the way we have always done things up to now in response to the needs of the present day.  The important thing is not to preserve the way we have          always done things but to have the courage, as people of faith, to correct the things that need to be corrected.  Doing Collaborative Ministry for Mission is nothing other than seeing ourselves as the ePeople of Kyoto Diocesef, taking responsibility for the future of our diocese and taking a first step on our journey into the new millennium as the church handing on the faith and ceaselessly spreading the gospel.

@I have made only a few points here but let us try, little by little, to change the mentality which maintains that the old ways must never change. The future is not something that simply happens if we wait. It comes from taking stock of the past and continuously re-assessing it; from asking ourselves as individual Christians and as the ePeople of the    Diocesef what is the best way to live the Gospel of Jesus; from continually renewing ourselves through repentance, even after the Great Holy Year has ended, so as to become ever better Christians throughout our lives.

@Whilst tackling Collaborative Ministry for Mission, which is the foremost task of Kyoto diocese, let us ask the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary that gWe may All be Oneh in the third millennium and that the manifold graces of God the father and the light of the Holy Spirit may illuminate our journey of faith during the coming year.  In the name of Christ I send you my episcopal blessing

The Peace of the Lord be with you.