Kawachi Chiyo(staff colleague, Jesuit Social Center)

On August 24 Mr Shibata Yukinori, the main staff member of our Center for 27 years, passed away from a malignant disease. He had not yet reached 51 years of age.

“Mr. Shibata, you went to heaven too soon. We miss you very much!”

I worked together with him for 18 years on the Center staff and over and over again appreciated his kindness. Our office was formerly located in a residential area of Kawada-cho, Shinjuku, and the three of us working there often exchanged greetings with our neighbors. About a year ago the Center moved to the Jesuit headquarters at Kibe Hall in Yotsuya, a modern building where Mr Shibata spent his daily office hours still unaccustomed to the new environment.

When I started working at the Center, Mr Shibata seemed to enjoy accompanying his children back and forth to the kindergarten. Even after they moved on to primary school he would participate in their sports, open school days, and other events together with the mothers of the other children. All his life he was a daddy greatly concerned for his children.

Mr Shibata was a zealous Christian from birth. Every Sunday morning, out of his concern for saving energy, he rode his bicycle to early Mass and spent the day with his loving family.

Mr Shibata was a real pillar of the Jesuit Social Center and was quite familiar with its history. He was precise in his work and had such a strong sense of responsibility that anybody working next to him always felt at ease. He was a bit shy but kind. He generally dealt with everybody impartially. I think that his detailed knowledge of the official documents of the Catholic Church and the Society of Jesus concerning social issues was above “the standard” of most Jesuits. He had a logical mind for answering questions, and whenever he did not know the answer he would say so. It is well known that he won the trust of Jesuits.

Readers of the “Social Pastoral Bulletin” know that Mr Shibata was its editor up to its most recent issue. He wrote articles on extensive themes dealing with official Jesuit documents, the theology of liberation, biological ethics, ecology, psychological suffering, life issues, and the death penalty. Later he added book reviews and short critiques of mini-films. Often he also did fine translations into Japanese. He was very talented and enjoyed a broad range of knowledge. He had an ordered and balanced mind.

At the same time he worked hard with Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhist groups of all denominations to strengthen networking in the fields mentioned above. I believe that his stance was to work as a citizen at grass-roots level concerning common social issues, avoiding any arrogant attitude.

For instance, he worked for 20 years as general secretary of the NGO “Japa Vietnam,” the office of which is located in the Jesuit Social Center. He always joined Japa Vietnam groups visiting Vietnam every summer and industriously continued to assist projects there. A few years ago he took over the secretariat of the network of religions for abolition of the death penalty and cooperated closely with concerned groups of citizens and religious inside and outside Japan. He helped draw up proposals directed to the Japanese government, which still recognizes the death penalty, and criticized the government whenever executions took place, calling on citizens or inviting speakers to general assemblies. Sparing no effort to abolish the death penalty, he delivered lectures in the classrooms of Sophia University, planned prayer gatherings organized by religious groups, and stirred the hearts of many.

“Mr Shibata, you worked hard for a long time. You have left a real vacuum in this Center. Imagine! For the time being I have to take over as editor of the Bulletin. Maybe you will not be satisfied with my work, but I ask you to keep a patient eye on me. Enjoy your favorite music in heaven and play Go and Shogi to your heart’s content. With my deepest respect and gratitude.”

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