(Photo credit: Robert Queddeng)
►For the first time in 403 years, Paco Parish Church (est. 1580) commemorated the Dec. 21, 1614 arrival of Justo Ucondono (Lord Justo Takayama Ukon) – and ‘350 Japanese Christian Exiles.’
The Thanksgiving Mass was concelebrated by Rev. Msgr. Rolando de la Cruz, parish priest – with seven other priests: ♦ Fr. Carlo del Rosario, parochial vicar; ♦ Fr. Iwao Ikegami, FMVD; ♦ Fr. Vincent Guinoo, FMVD; ♦ Fr. Antonius Harnoko, CICM (a Tagalog-speaking Indonesian missionary in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture); ♦ Fr. Luke Moortgat, CICM; ♦ Fr. Celso Alcantara, and ♦ Fr. Wilfredo C. Talavera.
The Japanese contingent of Manila-based nuns was made up of: Sr. Therese Fukatani, of the Congregation of Marie Auxiliatrice (MA); Sr. Kinue Maura, MA; and Sr. Ma. Therese Chiba, of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (ACI), and lay Japanese: Masako Yamamoto; Mrs. Risa (Ishii) Peralejo, and Sakiko Ishida.
The San Fernando de Dilao Parish in Paco counts with 27,000 parishioners (according to census data of 2010 — but Msgr. Dela Cruz estimates the number in 2017 at 95,000) — making Paco PARISH larger than any DIOCESE in Japan: ►Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami (Nagasaki – 67,729 Catholics), ►Bishop Paul Yoshinao Otsuka (Kyoto – 19,198), ►Bishop Bernard Taiji Katsuya (Sapporo – 17,993), ►Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD (Niigata – 7,711), ►Bishop Paul Kenjiro Koriyama (Kagoshima – 9,291), and ►Bishop Berard Toshio Oshikawa, OFM (Naha – 6,118). (It should be noted that the Paco Catholic School, adjacent to the church, has the largest student enrollment among Catholic schools in the Philippines.)
This statue, carved by the celebrated Paete artist Paloy Cagayat, was financed with contributions from the family and relatives of Dr. E. A. de Pedro — who wanted the honor of producing the first Takayama statue in the Philippines. It is the first Takayama altar statue with the ‘Palm of Martyrdom’ – and a saintly halo. ◘
Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation