Saturday, December 27, 2008

General Nicolas with Fellow Jesuits in Japan

The General Addressing Jesuits

December 26 was a busy day for Jesuits in Japan. More than 60% of the Japanese Province, about 160 men, gathered in Kibe Hall, the Japanese Jesuit Headquarters in central Tokyo. There were young and old, brothers and priests, foreigners and Japanese, coming from far (Nagasaki and Sapporo) and near (Sophia University, next door). The formal meeting began at 10:00 AM with a prayer, followed by a welcome speech by Shogo Sumita, the Japanese Provincial. Then came the main guest of the day, the Superior General, Adolfo Nicolas, dressed in black with a roman collar, as he regularly appears these days.

"Here I feel very much at home," the General began, after introductory bows and hellos, "since so far nobody has knelt before me asking to be blessed." Peppering his talk with amusing anecdotes and entertaining episodes, he gave a brief "State of the Society" address, outlining how the headquarters of the Society function in Rome, how the relations between the Society and the Vatican are improving, and how overall the Jesuits are enthusiastic apostles rather than troublesome whiners. He highlighted especially the painstaking work that Jesuits do in the Amazon regions of Brazil, in former Communist countries, and in countries where religious freedom is non-existent. Speaking in fluent Japanese throughout, he recalled the recent beatification of Peter Kibe, S.J, and 187 martyrs and told the audience that the rest of the Society has great expectations from the Japanese Province.

Jesuits together for Mass

Clearly, Nicolas is a very optimistic General, affirming the positive and encouraging the audience. He exuded confidence, hope, and enthusiasm. No dark clouds in his horizon! It has to be added, though, that his optimism was enlightened, not naive. He did point out that the Society's strength may dwindle to less than 10,000 within the next few years, and there are many challenges ahead. He also goaded the audience, with self-deprecating humor, to reflect on why Jesuits seemed to work better individually than collectively.

The Stats

After a break for lunch, Shnizo Kawamura, a Jesuit Professor at Sophia University, gave an hour-long presentation, complete with PowerPoint slides, on the 100-year history of the Society of Jesus in Japan. Beginning with the reasons that kept the Jesuits away from Japan soon after the Restoration, he introduced the major Popes and Jesuits who contributed to the growth of Jesuits and Jesuit apostolates in Japan. Perhaps the most exciting of his topics was the Church's position on Catholics 'bowing' at the Yasukuni (Shinto) Shrine in the 1930s, when, for a time, Church authorities saw no reason to forbid Catholics from visiting the shrine. The Church took such a stand since the Government, in response to a query from the Archbishop, had explained: "The visit of shrines is required from students of higher schools and students of middle and primary schools for educational reasons. The inclination required on these occasions from the students and pupils as a group has no other purpose than that of manifesting the sentiments of patriotism and loyalty." Kawamura's sobering statistics may be an eye-opener for most Jesuits and others concerned with the welfare of the Church.

Kawamura Presenting

The climax of the day was surely the liturgy, in which the General acted as the chief celebrant and homilist, and seven Jesuits pronounced their final vows. In his homily, the General gave friendly advice to the vowants--especially to transcend petty worries concering troublesome superiors and defective colleagues and to focus on their avowed commitment to serve God and the Church. He also exhorted them to be 'available' as Ignatius would like them to be--adding that they might even be called upon to serve in other parts of the world.

Seven Jesuits for Final Vows

After Mass, there was a reception to celebrate not only the memorable visit of the General, but also the 100 years of Jesuit presence in Japan and the Final Vows of the 'Seven Samurai.' The General enthusiastically mingled with the crowd, meeting many old friends and making new friends as well.
Nicolas at the Reception

Photos (c) Jesuits of Japan

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jesuit General Nicolas addresses Sophians

Fr. General on the podium

The Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, arrived in Tokyo safe and sound on Sunday (2008-12-21)--accompanied by Fr. Jose de Vera, who served for many years as the PR man of the Jesuits in Rome--in time for lunch with his former Jesuit colleagues at Sophia University. He looked relaxed, healthy, and cheerful as usual. Many were relieved to see him still the same: casual, cordial, jovial, warm, and committed to fulfilling his responsibilities. Keeping a busy schedule, he addressed Sophia University Faculty and Staff on Monday morning, although his time for the session was extended from 15 minutes to nearly an hour. In the afternoon, he addressed Sophia University students and interested outsiders. There was a large crowd despite the fact that his address was scheduled during class time. The Metropolitan Archbishop of Osaka, Leo Jun Ikenaga, S.J., too came all the way from Osaka to meet with the General and listen to his address.

Archbishop Ikenaga in the audience

On Tuesday, the General met with numerous other persons, including Cardinal Peter Shirayanagi (who took the trouble of coming to Sophia University), with whom he had lunch.

On Wednesday, Christmas Eve, he met with the board members of Sophia University, and had dinner with them and their partners in the Jesuit Residence. He plans to celebrate Christmas Mass this evening with Sophians--but simply as one of the concelebrants rather than as the chief celebrant or chief homilist.

The General flanked by Provincial Fr. Sumita and Vice-President Dr. Grove
December 26 will be an important day for all the Jesuits of Japan, as many are expected to gather at St. Ignatius Church, Tokyo, to meet the General in person. The events of the day will include also an academic lecture by the young historian, Fr. Kawamura, S.J., Ph.D. (Professor in the Department of History, Sophia Univeristy), on Jesuit successes and failures during the past 100 years, and the Last Vows of several Jesuits.

Photos: Professor Mike Milward, S.J.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jesuit General Adolfo Nicolas to visit Sophia University

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J.

The Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., is expected to spend a few days in Japan, visiting especially his alma mater, Sophia University, and meeting with students and colleagues. Fr. Nicolas, as is now well-known, spent most of his life in Japan, having arrived in Japan as a missionary in 1961, at the age of 25. His connection with Sophia University too is long. Besides graduating from Sophia University's Faculty of Theology (1968), he also served as a Professor in the same Faculty for may years.

Although the Jesuits know well the role and importance of the visit of their Superior General, most non-Jesuits within Sophia University may not. Given the negligible fraction of Catholics in Japan, most students and members of the faculty are not Catholic or even Christian. Often in casual chats and surveys, students tend to say that they are 'atheists' (by which they simply mean that they don't go to places of worship or pray to a divinity, not that they are militant disbelievers). Although most of them have heard of and read about the Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier, they rarely draw a link between him and Sophia University. They may know that Sophia is a 'Christian' university, but their awareness that it is also a Catholic and a Jesuit University is rather dim as in this secular age, explicit religious references tend to be left out of focus. The visit of Fr. Nicolas, therefore, may be a great occasion for many to get to know the Catholic, Jesuit, and international dimension of Sophia University.

Fr. Nicolas will arrive on Sunday (12/21) and stay in Japan for about ten days. He is expected to dialog with several ecclesiastical dignitaries and address a wide variety of groups, both lay and religious. His engagements at Sophia University are as follows:

12/22 (M) (Bldg 10 Auditorium)
11:45 ~ 12:00 Address to Sophia University Faculty and Staff members (not open to the public)
15:30 ~ ?? Address to Sophia University Students (open to the public)

*As Fr. Nicolas is fluent in Japanese, both addresses will be in Japanese.
*Those interested in attending the 15:30 session may contact Sophia University Catholic Center (Tel: (03)3238-4146; Fax: (03)3238-3031)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sophia FFS to celebrate 50th Anniversary

Fr. John Nissel, S.J.
Sophia University established the Faculty of Foreign Studies (FFS) 50 years ago, with Fr. John Nissel, S.J., as the first Dean. The official Japanese name of the Faculty is Gaikokugo Gakubu 'Faculty of Foreign Languages,' and it includes the following six departments: English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Portuguese. Although the focus of the departments in earlier times was only language, the current curriculum embraces also area and culture studies.

On December 13, 2008, the Faculty, currently headed by Professor Kensaku Yoshida, will celebrate the 50th anniversary. The major events planned are as follows:

13:05 Dean's Welcome Greetings
13:15 Main Lecture by Mr. Yoshiteru Uramoto (1974 Graduate of the Deptartment of English, and currently Deputy to the Director General. United Nations Industrial Development Organization, in Vienna)
14:30 Break
14:30 - 15:30 20-minute lectures, by three high profile graduates.
15:40 - 17:00 Symposium with invited speakers and concluding remarks

All these free events will be held in the Bldg 10 Auditorium; they are open to everyone. No reservation is required.
Venerable Bldg 1 Corridor

17:30 -
Party (Bldg 2, 5Fl Dining Hall) only for those interested; 5,000 Yen Admission fee. Reservation recommended. Call 03-3238-3701 for reservation, or send email to f-foreign[at]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Archbishop Pittau Celebrates his 80th Birthday

Archbishop and former President of Sophia University Joseph Pittau celebrated his 80th birthday on November 20, and Sophia University and the Sophia Alumni threw a party for him on November 21. A large gathering of about 300 friends and well-wishers assembled in Building 9 Basement Cafeteria to greet him. His brother, a parish priest in Italy, and a large number of Jesuits and priests too were present.

Despite his age, Archbishop Pittau is in excellent health and is constantly in demand for lectures, liturgical appearances, and spiritual talks.

Archbishop Pittau [Photo by Francis Britto, 2007]