Let’s Walk Together - Toward the 25th Anniversary and Beyond
This was the theme of this year’s Church Festival held October 8. For the International Mass, the Main Church, St. Joseph’s Hall, and Our Lady’s Chapel were full to capacity, and many people attended the Mass on the church lawn. One of the goals of this Church Festival was to celebrate “Back to Church” after COVID-19, a phrase that Fr. Saturnino Ochoa SJ, our former pastor, has been saying all along. Last year’s Church Festival (2022) had a Mass with a limited number of people and only one event. This year the Mass was overflowing with people, and we were able to enjoy a wide variety of events.
The theme consists of three elements: “Walk Together,” “Toward the 25th Anniversary,” and “Beyond”. “Walk Together” pertains to the spirit of the Synod. “Toward the 25th Anniversary” refers to the beginning of the dedication of the present church 25 years ago. Beginning from the launching on October 8, the coming months until October 13, 2024 are part of the year’s celebration. “Beyond” has various meanings. One example is going “beyond language barriers”, one of the key issues in order to deepen the connection among the various communities within the parish.
Building on experiences obtained through the preparations and organization of the festival, we would like to make the commemorative events for the 25th anniversary even better. One particular area that we want to focus on is to strengthen the unity among the various communities in the parish. We have created an International Team under the umbrella of the 25th Anniversary Committee to work with each community from the early stages of the project and hope that the commemorative events will be joyful for everyone.
Another aim is to go beyond our own boundaries by concretizing “Mission 2030”. As Fr. Koso mentioned in his homily at the International Mass, our aim is “to proceed toward Mission 2030 with structural and qualitative conversion in our way of doing and thinking,” which is defined as Prayer, Communication, Connection, and Walking Together while ‘our home, the earth’ is undergoing significant changes.” And, in order to keep up with changes happening in the outside world, it is important we should stay not only inside the church, but go out beyond its walls.
I am part of the Parish Council of St. Ignatius Church, and the one named to be In-Charge of this year’s Church Festival. Before that, I was a member of “Yotsuya Onigiri Nakama,” one of the Activity groups in the church. The purpose of the latter is to help the homeless and others who lack even minimal food and housing, and we visit these people every Saturday bringing onigiri (rice balls). Since this was the main activity I was involved in, I had not spent much time within the church. However, when I became a Councilor last April, my church life changed drastically, and since then I have been spending many hours in the church on weekends.
The work of a Lay Councilor, together with the priests and religious, is “to cooperate, according to their roles, discuss and jointly discern and decide the basic policy of what the parish should be and what it should accomplish” in order to build up the church community and to promote the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. It is overwhelming, but I am trying to do my part. The words of Fr. Henri Nouwen have inspired me a lot: “You do not need to know the big steps to take the little steps. You only have to take one step at a time. … Jesus does not ask us to jump. He asks us first to move, very, very carefully, step by step by step. The first step is to listen. The second is to step away from ‘mine’.”
When I started activities as a member of Yotsuya Onigiri Nakama and became a Councilor, it was not because I wanted to, but because I followed what I was called to do. I did not know then what it entailed, and even now I am still not sure, but I feel the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I hope to be attentive to his call, so that I can go beyond myself and out into a new world.
By Jun Iwasaki