On January 17 the new group of missionaries began Japanese language studies under the tutorship of Mr. Imabara. Instruction continued until October 25, 1949. Classes were often interrupted or put off as the services of Mr. Imabara, as interpreter, were needed by the mission superior, who was already busy seeing to the reparation of the damaged churches in Tokushima and Kochi, as well as preparing a new foundation in Itami, a city bordering on Toyonaka.
A.R.O.M.1. of October 1949 reports: "A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Sunday, July 31 , at Shin Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, Honshu (Japan) for the buildings being erected there by our Oblate Fathers of the Japanese Mission. In this quasi-parish of Shin Itami, now entrusted to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a kindergarten will accommodate some 100 children. Attached to this kindergarten is a large playroom that will serve as a temporary chapel until our Fathers are able to build a suitable church. Within the limits of the new parish here are more than 65,000 people; of this number less than 50 are Catholic. At present they are having Mass each Sunday in the Home of Mr. Rihei Okada, a recent convert and former Mayor of Itami. The usual attendance is around 35. On August 15 seven members of the parish were baptized. ..."
On January 25, 1950, the buildings in Itami were dedicated by Bp. Taguchi. Fr. McBennett took charge as pastor, with Fr. Mulvey as assistant, while Fr. Scannell returned to the U.S.A.
The end of formal studies of Japanese in Toyonaka had come in November 1 949, and so the missionaries had set out with Bible and dictionary in hand for their new assignments: Fr. Robitaille to Tokushima as pastor, Frs. Gill and McLaughlin to Kochi (Shinhonmachi) as pastor and assistant respectively, the other three staying on in Toyonaka until the completion of the facilities in Itami.
The formal handing over of the area to be evangelized by the Oblates in Shikoku, i.e. the civil prefectures of Kochi and Tokushima, was effected on December 4, 1 949 by Bishop Taguchi in an impressive ceremony. The Dominican Fathers were represented by Fr. Vincente Gonzalez, O.P., Dominican Vicar for Shikoku, and the Oblate Fathers by Fr. Robert J. Gill, O.M.1., Vicar Provincial of the Oblates. Bishop Taguchi thanked the Dominican Fathers for their apostolic labors in the Kochi area since 1904, and welcomed the Oblate Fathers. The Congregation thereby assumed responsibility for the southern half (Kochi Pref. 7,103.87 square kilometers, Tokushima Pref. 4,143.18 square kilometers) of the Prefecture Apostolic of Shikoku (total area 1 8,794.29 square kilometers), which is close to two thirds of Belgium (30,513 square kilometers). The population of the island in 1949 was about 4 million, most of whom were attached in some way to Buddhism. The Christians were a small minority of less than I ,OOO.
The Dominicans continued their apostolic work in the civil prefecture of Ehime (5,672.59 square ki-lometers), while the fourth of the civil prefectures, Kagawa (1,874.65 square kilometers) was to be evangelized by the diocesan clergy (since 1953 assisted by the Burgos Fathers from Spain).
The areas accepted by the Oblates, though basically rural, and physiographically extremely mountainous, centered in the prefectural capital cities of Kochi and Tokushima. These cities had been almost completely leveled by Allied bombing in July 1945. The existing parishes in Kochi Prefecture were Nakajimacho, in the center of Kochi city (totally destroyed), Shinhonmachi, also in Kochi city (had escaped destruction), and Akaoka, 25 kilometers east of Kochi City.
In Tokushima Prefecture there was the church property in Tokushima Honcho (in the center of the city), also destroyed but partly reconstructed, and Awa-Ikeda, 76 kilometers west of Tokushima City, unattended since 1940.
The church at Shinhonmachi in the city of Kochi, and the mission of Akaoka were the only two churches in Kochi Prefecture in 1949 . The church at Shinhonmachi is just behind (north of) the railroad station of Kochi City. It miraculously escaped the fire bombs of 1945. An earthquake in December 1946 caused severe damage to the front of the church .
This parish encompassed all of Kochi City, as well as the territories north, 30 kilometers to the Tokushima and Ehime prefectural borders, and west, 110 kilometers to the Ehime prefectural border. This comprised about one half of the whole prefecture. This parish was divided in two when the new rectory in Nakajimacho was finished. Its territory became then the northern half of Kochi city and Awa-gun (gun=county), and the mountain area up to the Tokushima prefectural border, 30 kilometers to the north .
In 1949 there were about 200 Christians in the city. The diocesan statistics give 209 Christians for this parish (Shinhonmachi) on January 1, 1997.
In March 1972, while remaining part of the mission territory entrusted to the Oblates, Fr. John Yoji Matsunaga, a diocesan priest, became pastor, with an Oblate serving as assistant. In August 1996 this priest was transferred and in his place came two new diocesan priests.
This parish is in the center of Kochi, a couple of minutes walk from the municipal and prefectural offices. It is the oldest parish on Shikoku Island. Missionaries of the Paris Foreign Mission Society first came to Kochi in February 1882. They acquired land at the present site in 1888. In 1904 the whole island was entrusted to the Dominican Fathers and established as a Prefecture Apostolic. They built a large red brick church and granite rectory on the property at Nakajimacho in 1915. On July 4, 1945, the center of Kochi was razed by Allied Forces fire bombs and the church and rectory perished in the blaze.
The Oblates reopened this parish in 1953 after a rectory and kindergarten were built.
On August 21 the new rectory was fmished and Father Gill, who had until then resided in Shinhonmachi moved in that day.
On that same day Fr. Jan VAN HOYDONCK, O.M.I., arrived in Kobe, from Belgium. It may set someone to wonder why all of a sudden some member from another Oblate Province than the Eastern American shows up in the Japanese Oblate Mission. 'All of a sudden' is certainly not applicable here. Even before there was ever a thought of accepting a mission in Japan Father Van Hoydonck had expressed his desire to Father General of being sent to Japan if the opportunity would arise. And from the day he knew that Father Gill had been appointed to be the first superior of the Oblates in Japan he wrote to him, asking whether he would be given some consideration. Father Gill gave a very kind and favorable reply, and that gave rise to the same desire among some of the young Oblates in the Flemish Scholasticate in Belgium. Through several circumstances, one of which was a severe traffic accident,Father Van Hoydonck's departure was delayed, but on July 3rd 1953 he left Rotteredam by ship, and arrived in Kobe on August 21. After a few days in and around Itami he was put on the ferry to Kochi the evening of the 25th, and arrived in Kochi the next morning where he was welcomed by Father Gill. After a few days in and around Kochi he had to leave again for Tokyo to take up the study of the Japanese language, from where he was appointed to be an assistant pastor in Nakajima-cho, in July 1955.
The kindergarten auditorium in Nakajima-cho served as a church until the end of 1958. A fine concrete church was built and solemnly consecrated under the title of the Immaculate Conception by Bishop Paul Taguchi on December 20, 1958. The Bishop celebrated a Pontifical High Mass in it the following day, December 21 .
The parish extended throughout the south side of the city, and 15 kilometers to the east, to Noichi. To the west it extended all the way to the Ehime Prefecture border, some 150 kilometers away. Part of this area in the west was detached in 1977, when a parish was formed in Nakamura. On January 1, 1997, Nakajima-cho Parish reported 365 parishioners.
This small parish is in the eastern part of Kochi Prefecture, about 20 kilometers from Kochi city. It was established by the Dominican Fathers in 1933 with 35 Christians. In 1935 they built a kindergarten, which in 1948, at the request of the town authorities was turned into a day nursery. This was closed in 1978. Under the Oblates, Akaoka church was a mission station of Aki until 1963 when the church, dedicated to Saint Joseph, was renewed and a new rectory was built. The diocesan statistics give a total of 48 Christians at the end of 1996.
The Tokushima church, dedicated to St. Paul Miki, is located at Honcho in the prefectural capital of Tokushima City. The original church erected by the Dominicans had been destroyed at the end of the war. A small temporary chapel and a quonset hut rectory had been built by Fr. Francis Eikichi Tanaka. This parish was entrusted to the Oblates in 1949 and was then the only Catholic church in function in the whole of Tokushima Prefecture, a territory of 4,144 square kilometers. The other existing church, in Awa-Ikeda, at the west end of the Prefecture, had been closed in 1940, due to travel restrictions and the house arrest of the foreign (Spanish) missionaries during the Pacific War.
Father Leonard Robitaille, O.M.I., became the first Oblate pastor in Tokushima on November 29, 1949, replacing Fr. Tanaka, who went to Takamatsu and later became bishop of Takamatsu when the Prefecture Apostolic was raised to the status of a diocese in 1963.
At the end of 1996 the parish listed 388 catholics. The parishes of Naruto and Anan had in the meantime been founded from this parish.
This parish is in the mountains of central Shikoku, on the western edge of Tokushima Prefecture. The Oblates assumed responsibility for this mission in 1949 when accepting the mission district of Tokushima.
The Dominican Fathers had bought a piece of property in the town of lkeda in 1928, and in 1929 opened a kindergarten. In 1933 they built a church with rectory and a house for a catechist. Because of some difficulties they had to close the kindergarten and in 1938 they also dismantled the kindergarten building and the rectory and moved them south to Kochi and Akaoka, and the residing priest moved to Matsuyama. During the war years there was no religious activity, and the buildings that were still left on the property were occupied by squatters. In 1949 these buildings (the church and the little adjoining house) were in terrible disrepair already, but remained occupied by the squatters until 1962. Until then the area was a mission of Tokushima parish.
The territory of the Ikeda parish covers about a quarter of the rural mountain area of Tokushima Prefecture and stretches from Ehime Prefecture in the west to Kagawa Prefecture in the north, to the parishes of Naruto and Tokushima in the east, and to Kochi Prefecture in the south. In 1962 Ikeda was elevated to the status of a parish with a resident priest. The buildings had reached a point where repairs were no longer possible and further use had become dangerous. The whole compound was rebuilt in 1973, and the old buildings were torn down. The parish is dedicated to Christ the King.
On January 1, 1997 the parish register listed 30 Christians.
The new missionaries had been in Japan only a few months yet, trying to learn a new and difficult language, making tedious and time consuming trips to Shikoku to oversee the repairs of the churches to be confided to them, when new demands already required their attention. From several directions they had received requests to open new missions to broaden the network of bases for evangelization.
While they were still in language training in Toyonaka the Oblates started saying Mass at the home of Mr. Rihei Okada, the former mayor of Itami, a city just south of Toyonaka, roughly halfway between Osaka and Kobe. There were a few Christians in that city. Very soon Bishop Taguchi asked the Oblates to start a parish in Itami. In April 1949 land was bought for this new mission, Iess than five months after the arrival of the missionaries in Japan. The ground breaking took place on the last Sunday of July 1949. A kindergarten and rectory were blessed by Bishop Taguchi on January 24, 1950, and dedicated to Christ the King. Fr. Charles McBennett became the first pastor. The kindergarten hall served as a chapel until a church was built in 1966. This parish grew rapidly into one of the bigger ones in the diocese, partly by new conversions and baptisms at the church, partly by the rapid growth of the city by migration from remote areas of Japan, mainly from the southern part of Kyushu, which brought many Christians from the Nagasaki area towards the Kansai (Osaka) area. On January 1, 1996 the parish had 773 parishioners.
"Star of the Sea" parish was established by the Oblates in Aki city, Kochi Prefecture, in 1951. It was to serve as a base for evangelizing the eastern part of Kochi Prefecture. A kindergarten and a big rectory were built with the hope of eventually housing the novitiate there.
In the summer of 1951 the building in Aki was ready for occupancy. Father Leonard Robitaille was appointed its director. He was succeeded as pastor of Tokushima by Fr. McLaughlin. Frs. Patrick BRADY and Nicholas NEVILLE, who had arrived in Japan on June 1, were sent to Aki for their study of the Japanese language. On October 15 Fr. Robitaille was installed as pastor.
On November 1 , 1951, the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Maximilian de Furstenberg arrived in Takamatsu, accompanied by Bishop Taguchi, making his first visit to Shikoku. They were met by Fr. Gill, who took them by car to the Dominican parishes in Ehime Prefecture, and on to Kochi, where the Archbishop presided at several functions.
From Kochi the visitors went to Akaoka and Aki. In Aki the Internuncio, as he was commonly referred to, presided at the blessing of the new buildings on November 8. The next day the visitors with Fr. Gill went on to Tokushima.
Akaoka, which up to that time had been a station of the Shinhonmachi church in Kochi, became attached to Aki.
The following year, on May 31, 1952, Fr. Gill made the formal promulgation of the decree of erection of a canonical novitiate in Aki.
Father John BARRETT and Father Richard HARR, who had arrived in Japan on October 13, 1952, started their Japanese language studies in Aki, but when the Franciscan Fathers opened a language school for missionaries in Tokyo in the Spring of 1953 they were sent there and subsequent arrivals also took their courses there.
At the time when the proceedings in Aki were started there was only one Catholic family living there. The parish territory covers several hundred square kilometers, extending all along the coast for about 110 kilometers, and reaching north into the mountains up to the Tokushima Prefecture border. In 1996 there were 43 Catholics registered in that territory. More than triple that number have been baptized there over the years, but they have migrated to the big city centers on Honshu, seeking work. This parish has mission stations at Yanase and at Mitsuhama in Muroto city, both located east of Aki.
In the Spring of 1953 Bishop Dominic Senuemon Fukahori of the diocese of Fukuoka invited the Oblates to start a parish in Nakamachi, in the south of Fukuoka City. The bishop provided the land, and the building of a rectory and a hall was started. This was the first mission the Oblates opened outside of the diocese of Osaka and its suffragan Prefecture Apostolic of Shikoku.
The compound was blessed by Bishop Fukahori on September 23, 1953, and dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady. Fr. William McLaughlin was the first pastor. The name of the area was later changed to Hikarigaoka. In 1953 there were 50 Catholics living in the area. With the expansion of Fukuoka City this soon became a densely populated area with about 80,000 people living in the confines of the parish. In 1968 a new modern church was built to meet the needs of the growing Catholic community. On September 4, 1988 the parish, which then counted 940 members, was returned to the diocese. Wency LAGUIDAO was the last Oblate Pastor.
"Our Lady Queen of Peace" parish was built in Koga (diocese of Fukuoka) in 1955. Koga is a city about 20 kilometers east of the center of Fukuoka. Bishop Fukahori, happy with the success of the Fathers in Nakamachi, asked them to open another mission to the east of the city to bridge the area between Fukuoka City and Kita-Kyushu City. Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York provided the funds to build the entire compound: a church, a rectory and a kindergarten. The church spire, rising some 20 meters out of the pine trees was an inspiration and attraction for anyone travelling on National Highway Route 3 . Fr. Timothy Mulvey was the first pastor. In the early years much of the work of evangelization was among the sick in the TB-sanatoriums in the area. The Catholic population increased from 20 in 1955 to 470 in 1987. By 1998 there were 881 people in the parish.
"St. Joseph" parish at Naruto was founded in 1959. Naruto is about 20 kilometers northeast of Tokushima City. The parish territory extends from the Yoshino River northward to the Kagawa Prefecture border, some 60 kilometers away, and westward up the North bank of the Yoshino River as far as Wakimachi, some 30 kilometers away.
Naruto was for many years a mission station of Tokushima. Already in 1949, when the Oblates took over the mission district, there were 20 Christians, thanks to the zealous work of a lay catechist, Mr. Joseph Sueho TSUDA.
On December 8, 1952 Mr. Tsuda started his novitiate as an Oblate Brother, and on the same day in 1959 he pronounced his perpetual vows. After a very meritorious life he went to his eternal reward on July 23, 1981.
On February 2, 1959 Fr. Bertram SILVER took occupancy of the new rectory, and on February 16 was formally installed as pastor. On February 27 the new buildings were blessed by the Superior General of the Oblates, Very Reverend Father Leo Deschatelets. The kindergarten hall served as a chapel until 1978.
In 1978 the entire mission complex was moved to a new place. What once had been in the middle of a peanut field had become the busiest corner of the city center. Also, poor foundations and termites had necessitated reconstruction of the original site. The entire mission compound was therefore moved to a developing residential area north of the railway station. For many years that area had been covered with shallow ponds for salt extraction. On the acquired piece of land a separate church was built, besides a rectory and a kindergarten.
There were 182 Catholics in 1996. This parish has until now given four priestly vocations, one diocesan, three religious of whom two are Oblate and one Franciscan .
A mission station was established at Tomioka-cho in Anan, in 1962. Anan is a city 20 kilometers south of Tokushima city. The area covered by this parish extends all along the east coast of Shikoku as far south as the Kochi Prefecture border, some 65 kilometers away, and west deep into the mountains, altogether an area of about half of Tokushima Prefecture. There were 45 Catholics in the Anan area in 1962. A kindergarten was built there in 1966, the hall of it serving as a chapel. A priest's residence was completed the same year. Fr. John Kenney MAHONEY took up residence as the first pastor.
On May 5, 1993 the Ordinary of the Takamatsu Diocese, Bishop Joseph Satoshi Fukahori, blessed the new church in Anan, dedicated to Our Lady of Hope. The initiative for it came from Fr. Richard HARR, the pastor at that time. It holds about 100 people. The entire area has a population of about 280,000, of whorn 87 were Catholics at the end of 1996. There is a mission station at Mugi, 45 kilometers south, with 6 Catholics.
"Christ the Redeemer" church in Nakamura is in charge of the entire southwest sector of Kochi Prefecture, an area of several hundred square kilometers. In the early 60's Fathers from Nakajimacho in Kochi City started making monthly visits to the few Christians scattered throughout this vast area extending some 130 kilometers along the coast of Tosa Bay. It was a nerveracking bus ride along the winding, unpaved mountain roads.
Fr. William MAHER rented a small house in the center of Nakamura City in 1970 and took up residence. In 1977 a rectory with a chapel was built on a site behind the railway station. next to the Ushiro River, a tributary of the Shimanto River. In an area larger than all of Kagawa Prefecture, with a population of 112,000, there were 69 Catholics at the end of 1996.
Next page| New Mission, Korea
Copyright © 2001-2006: The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate; General Delegation of Japan/Korea