Evangelization In Pandemic Times
When the novel Corona virus broke out and church activities were suspended, proliferation of news and information regarding its seemingly unstoppable spread brought fear, anxiety, and insecurity into the hearts of many. Who to turn to? Where to go to? Believers usually would run to the Church to pray and beg God for His grace and mercy. But even the churches have had to shut their doors to protect the faithful from the possibility of further harm.
On-line Masses since April have played a very important role here in St. Ignatius. They have become vehicles for the proclamation of the Word of God, allowing people to experience that God’s Word is not far from his people; that He is with us in all that we are experiencing. The Eucharist—Bread broken and shared—is at its highest efficacy when we are “hungry.” This pandemic has gone down into our deepest self, letting us experience our hunger for both.
Compared with other countries, there are very few on-line Masses in Japan, and how I longed to have our own live streaming of English Masses for the International Community. You could just imagine, therefore, how happy and grateful I was when St. Ignatius Church was very sensitive to respond to the needs of the 16,000 faithful attending the regular Masses. Aired in four languages, English, Spanish, Japanese and Vietnamese, at the usual times somehow brought back a sense of being bonded as one community. I received feedback saying that the on-line Masses have brought back the “sense of community and belongingness” to the faithful and have even provided a structure for the youth to continue attending the Sunday Liturgy.
It is possible for God`s Word and the Eucharist to find a home in our hearts during these pandemic times. Nothing can stop us from bringing the “Church” to many homes, even across the world. My heartfelt gratitude to the lay people who have been instrumental in making the live streaming of the Mass possible, including the Jesuit priests who celebrate the Mass. Arigatou gozaimashita!
Sr. Leny Fery, FDCC （Live Streaming Team）
Even during this quarantine period, we at St. Ignatius International Youth Ministry (SIIYM) have continued our activities such as “Hangout” and “Weekday Fellowship” via Zoom application. Although the environment and situation have changed a lot, there is one thing that has remained unchanged - our passion for evangelization. We are confident that despite being unable to go to church, even on-line, evangelization is possible if we gather as one, in Christ.
At first, we wondered whether we could really have sharing, praise, and worship via Zoom, but now we have succeeded in organizing interactive and meaningful programs with more than 40 brothers and sisters participating. From now on we would like to reach out to other youth groups in our parish and work together more. We continue to pray that normalcy will return and that we may all be able to go to church soon, to spread the love of God further with the power of the youth.
Seika Masugi (SIIYM Leader)
Online Meeting of Representatives of the International Community.
On the May 17, a day after we received a Zoom Conference Tutorial from Eunice Pili, one of the leaders of the SIIYM, the English-Speaking Group held its first meeting on-line. The last meeting held in person was in February. All in all, 21 participants attended, each representing the 13 Ministries/Groups of the John de Britto Center, including one representative from the Parish Council and two Japanese members of the Welcome Table.
Participants were overjoyed to “see” one another again after such a long time. Informal greetings were exchanged prior to its start. Fr. Bony James SJ, the facilitator, asked that “each one share one good thing experienced during this pandemic.” Mentioned repeatedly were: being able to slow down the fast rhythm of life; more quiet time for prayer and reflection about their faith and what is important in life; greater awareness and gratitude of many blessings being received; more time with the family and to do daily duties like cooking, cleaning their rooms, taking walks, and being able to talk along the way with the homeless and old people; reaching out or animating, though virtually, people who have lost their jobs, are lonely, or wanted to go home (to their own countries), etc. Some pointed out that we have to pray, too, for our priests, who have had many funerals and weddings and are trying their best to come up with measures for when the church will open again. There was also exchange of information and opinions on how to help people in financial difficulties and how to improve the live-streaming of Masses.
Though we were in different places, the meeting felt like we were together in one room. It was decided that we would continue to hold our usual 3rd Sunday meetings on-line until such a time as we can worship together again in the parish—hopefully, soon.
Raymond Gasu (Member)
People are so used to seeing our Bulletin in its printed form. Every month, 500 copies are printed, more on special occasions. They are distributed by the Ushers after the 1st Sunday English Mass. They are placed on the tables of the Welcome Group, on the stands at the entrance of the church, and near St. Joseph’s Hall, and are displayed prominently in large print in the glass case of Kibe Hall. Some look for them in the John de Britto Center to send them somewhere. During this pandemic, how do you reach a large number of people for parish information, faith formation, and evangelization?
Since April, the monthly Bulletin has likewise been made available on-line under the Publications Section of the St. Ignatius website. We are happy that people are starting to read it there and that the number is increasing. People who used to be in St. Ignatius and are now back in their respective countries or are now somewhere else around the world and are nostalgic for St. Ignatius, their “home away from home,” can now easily access the Bulletin. Of course, printed copies continue to be available, though greatly reduced in number, in the Parish Office.
Sr. Flor M. Florece, （Media Team）
English Sunday School.
It is not just adults that are missing at St. Ignatius. So are the children. How are they doing? How do they feel in the present state of “STAY HOME”? What activities are they engaged in? How do the parents explain the pandemic to them? How do they follow up on their faith formation? We reached out to them too and here are their answers:
Adelfa Armentia (Sunday School Team)