Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)  

Franciscus de Xabier ( from Wikipedia)
This year is the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius Church has scheduled a series of events to be held soon. The Franciscans, my own religious organization, will also be celebrating next year the 100th anniversary of the return of the Franciscans to Japan, after lifting the ban on the decree forbidding Christianity.
Through these events we come to remember the great achievements of our predecessors providing us with an opportunity to reflect on evangelization and, based on past records, we can analyze what steps did evangelization take in a country where Christianity does not take roots, how the needs at that time were perceived, what kind of institutions were built to answer those needs and who were the people running them, etc. Such issues are considered model examples during the pastoral gatherings. In present Japan these are important elements to reflect on what evangelization is, with whom and how to evangelize, in such a way that we can not remove them when thinking of pastoral activities.
The other day at a priests' gathering that discussed evangelization after 5 or 10 years several study groups took up the issue. But, since it was beyond imagination to figure out what could happen in a period of 5 or 10 years and, since the local needs vary from region to region, the discussions reached a deadlock. Then a participant priest proposed the following, " it's certainly impossible to figure out what would happen in the near future, but why not to make some use of our imaginations? At least it is clear that we become older every year and if we proceed on from the things we understand the objective facts and pastoral needs will surface"
The age of priests and lay persons will get higher after 5 and 10 years and because the numbers of foreign Christians will certainly increase, the discussions concerning needed pastoral care and the directions that each region where the priests are incardinated became alive. By using the imagination a number of opinions and ideas came afloat.
I felt, at that time, the importance for evangelization to use creativity and the power of our imagination. If not, the efforts for evangelization remain still. I think that missionaries 100 years ago or those of the times of Francis Xavier, as well as Christians during the persecution period, enjoyed a great deal of imagination and creativity.
For instance, during the ban on Christianity when missionaries were expelled, Christians initiated peculiar methods to baptize and pray, to transmit the doctrinal contents of faith and to manage church activities without been noticed by the Shoguns.
Thus, Christian faith continued existing for more than 200 years. Missionaries, after the lift of the ban on Christianity, rapidly introduced works to answer the needs of the times, like education and welfare institutions that later helped the task of evangelization. At the same time they built churches in regions where were inexistent and promoting evangelization they increased the numbers of Christians.
At present, the former educational and welfare activities have been converted into legal corporations rooted in society and continue active in their own fields. Many people recognize them as activities managed by Christian bodies. This is a great achievement.
But, what about evangelization from now on? This is the stage where discussions, as mentioned above, reach a deadlock. I just heard a while ago that there are many activities going on in parishes of Brazil, a Christian country, where the groups active in many fields are called with the name 'pastoral'. And since each person is involved in various activities only the field of the activities is given the name of “pastoral”. Thus, the word pastoral is on the increase and activities like music or art bear that name.
Hearing that and since many groups exist in Japanese parishes I felt it was possible to make a link of those groups, no matter the fields they are involved in, with evangelization activities. What to select from present activities that could be developed into evangelization? This is an issue where the imagination power and creativity of the Japanese Church are questioned.
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