NEWS from Japan: 2017 Ikaho Encounter


June 27- 29, 2017, about 75 priests, deacons, religious and lay missionaries working in the Diocese of Saitama gathered for its yearly encounter and formation .

It was held at a Japanese style hotel in Ikaho, a small Japanese village famous for hot springs in Gunma Prefecture. Tokyo’s archbishop, Takeo Peter Okada and Deacon Sadato Yabuki, the Chancellor of Saitama Diocese were present throughout the 3-day encounter. Four Hijas de Jesus sisters, Srs. Consola de Matos (Brazilian), Angeles Kaneko (Japanese) , Rosario Remigio and Marianata Teñoso, all working in the social apostolate in Gunma and Ibaraki Prefectures actively participated.

The theme was “Reverence for Life: A New Look”. Given the many new circumstances and significant changes in Japan and in the world the past two decades, it was an updating of the document published in 2001 by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Japan entitled, “Reverence For Life.” Two lay speakers, Mr. Koji Matsumura, a lawyer and Ms. Yuuko Iijima, a freelance journalist, shared their personal knowledge, experiences and reflections about the document. They touched on family, marriage and social issues in Japan like poverty, aging society, increasing number of “homeless” , not just Japanese men but women, and care for the environment. Later, the participants were divided into small groups and also shared their own thoughts and opinions regarding what they heard and on the question posed to them by Ms. Iijima: “What can the Church do to be the Heavenly Father’s open door to His homeless children?”

The participants also had the traditional “Happy Hour” – an opportunity to relax from the daily grind of apostolic works and build and strengthen relationships with one another. Bishop Okada, usually with a serious demeanor, wore a Japanese style summer kimono sang, while the rest of the participants from different congregations and other countries rendered songs, some using indigenous instruments. The Filipino Pastoral Team presented a native dance. It was truly a delightful evening with each participant receiving awards with “funny-bizarre titles”, and with bottles of wine and beer as trophies.
Since the last day of the encounter ended on the Feast of Saints. Peter and Paul, the intentions of the Eucharistic celebration were specially offered for the Holy Father and for Archbishop Okada who bears the name Peter.
Looking through it all, we were re-charged holistically - from the scenic mountain ranges of Ikaho, the “onsen” (hot spring) which the hotel provides to their guests, the sumptuous Japanese meals served, the formation received, the rich liturgy and the camaraderie. After three days we were once again ready to go back to our respective missions in the Lord’s vineyard in Saitama Diocese, until the next Annual Gathering…


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