Missionary communion of Saitama diocese
Saitama, Japan, 15 November 2018 -- The Tokyo metropolitan area has 11 vicariates with 60 parishes scattered over the large area of 4 prefectures with a population of 16 million people.
What makes the Saitama diocesan Catholic community so special and compatible with the Salesian charism? Due to a long tradition of open and missionary-minded bishop predecessors, there are many Catholic ministries open to the less privileged population, bringing the Gospel spirit to society at large. Through the Newsletter of the Diocesan Committee for Justice and Peace (The Donkey's Ear) we receive a picture of many parish activities in local society. The diocese of Saitama is adjacent to Fukushima (the centre of the 2011 nuclear plant disaster) and since that time a special ministry station has opened in Iwaki City, helping tthe affected population.
Moreover the diocesan committee 'Against Burakumin Discrimination through the Human Rights Approach' is one of the most significant commitments. Burakumin are the Japan society 'outcasts' since time immemorial, without access to the main-stream society.
Since the arrival of the Vietnamese boat people in the 1980s, the 'Akastuki-no-mura' (http://akatsuki.christian.jp) is involved in services to this vulnerable people with many services addressing their hardships, including mentally affected people. The Easter Village (social welfare) institution for youth in need is also supported by the diocese, with the Saitama bishop as the Chairman of the Board (www.easter-village.or.jp).
Since the diocese is composed of 21,000 Japanese Catholics and more than 100,000 non-Japanese Catholics, the 'Open house' in Saitama (El Centro Catolico Internacional) has been consistent involved over the past 25 years in providing all-round assistance to migrants (pastoral, legal, language, information, social formation and cooperation with NGOs and agencies) in Spanish, English, Portuguese, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
There are many factors which make the Saitama diocesan territory fertile Salesian territory. There are more than 600 elementary school football teams (more than Tokyo City), the bishop's house is famous for being the poorest bishop's house in Japan (16 dioceses), and has been 5 years without a resident bishop. The diocese is famous too for having 5 permanent deacons who are serving the Church in key administrative positions, not so much in the liturgy (as was the case in early Church history) and moreover, the Catholic community is very much open to social work with a preferential option for the poor!
A good number of the 51 priests of our diocese are still young by contrast with other dioceses in Japan. Along with the permanent deacons, there are 146 religious sisters and many committed lay people giving life to the 22 educational institutions, 18 charitable and social institutions around the 4 prefectures of Saitama diocese. Each year about 400 people are baptized, a rather large number for Japan.
We pray for the only Salesian (Bishop Mario Yamanouchi) and his diocesan community, that he might also be a good inspiration for the whole Salesian family of Japan!