Columban Mission History in Japan
In 1934 two Columbans came to Japan to learn the language with a view to evangelisation work among the Japanese living in Korea. Another joined them two years later. The three remained doing pastoral work until 1939 when they returned to Korea. The Japan Region was initiated in 1948. Within two years there were 20 Columbans. These were soon joined by a number of the Columbans being expelled from China during the revolution there, and some who came from the battlefields of the Korean War (1950-53). There was continued assignment of newly ordained priests each year until 1965. The Region peaked with over 90 priests in 1960s. At the moment there are 53 prilésts (average age over 60), one volunteer priest, four students and five lay missionaries assigned to the Region.
Pastoral Activities and Outreach
Columban Pattern of Ministry
The period 1948-1960 involved, primarily, proclamation of the Gospel and the establishment of new Christian communities that were organised in a similar way to parishes. Most of them had less than 300 Catholics in number by around 1960 .About this time, with increasing industrial development, the peoples' interest in and time for Christianity diminished, but since then there has been a slow but steady growth in the church as well as a deepening of faith and understanding of the role of the church. 1995 was an eventful year for Japan - the Kobe earthquake,poison gas attacks on the subway, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War It and the failure of well trusted financial institutions. Chinese and French nuclear testing too has contributed to the growing uneasiness. The activities of the Aum Shinrikyo sect has led to great suspicion of religion. The Columbans are preparing to meet peoples' spiritual needs amidst conditions of emptiness, disillusionment and anxiety.
Renewal of the Apostolate
From about 1970 there was a re-education process going on at all levels of the church. While most Columbans did remain in the parish, others moved into different forms of social organisation: working with youth, family apostolate, catechetics for primary evangelisation, and more recently working among foreign workers and street people.
Social Justice and the Environment
The Church in Japan as a whole has been very active in promoting and engaging in these apostolates. Individual Columbans, sometimes acting in collaboration with lay people in their parishes, have been able to accomplish, much for refugees who have come to Japan, the foreign workers and street people. Over recent years the Columbans have organised two workshops on the themes: Women in Japan and Women in the Japanese Church and sponsored a number of seminars on World Debt and the Environment Lay Missionaries.
At present there is a married couple working under Columban auspices looking after a priestless parish in the Osaka diocese. Also, there are a number of lay missionaries working specifically with Filipino migrant workers. Three more lay missionaries arrived in March 1995 from the US Region~ to spend nine months doing Japanese language studies before receiving their mission assignments
Categories of Needy People - The Future Challenge
Dare to - With Whom We Should Walk is the title of a recent publication of the Bishops' Conference. Six categories of people whose needs the Church should respond to are designated: Brakumin [outcasts], refugees, foreign kworkers, Koreans, the Ainu, the Okinawans. We have addred three more - Street pople, the elderly and women.