Divine Word Missionaries blog will share some of the latest mission updates from around the world. The more than 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries are serving in 78 countries with a variety of provinces/regions that are then grouped into four zones, namely, the European zone (EUROPA), the Pan-American zone (PANAM), the Asia-Pacific zone (ASPAC), and the Africa-Madagascar zone (AFRAM). The zones may work as geographical sub-zones wherever this seems suitable. Check back often for real-time stories from the missions.
Newly appointed Archbishop Kikuchi
Nov 16, 2017
A Divine Word Missionary has been named the new leader of the Tokyo archdiocese. On Oct. 25, Pope Francis appointed Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi SVD as archbishop of Tokyo. Archbishop Kikuchi’s installation Mass will be Dec. 16 at Tokyo’s Cathedral of St. Mary, according to his Facebook page.
He replaces retiring Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada. Prior to this appointment, Archbishop Kikuchi had spent 13 years as bishop to the Diocese of Niigata in northwest Japan.
The news of this appointment is not just an honor for Archbishop Kikuchi but a source of joy for Divine Word Missionaries worldwide to see one of our confreres named leader of the Catholic community in one of the world’s largest cities. Archbishop Kikuchi will be responsible for more than 90,000 Catholics in a metropolitan area with a diverse population of more than 19 million people.
Those figures show that Catholics represent a tiny sliver—less than 1 percent—of Tokyo’s population. Archbishop Kikuchi has acknowledged evangelization will be both a goal and a challenge of his post. In a statement to the Catholic website AsiaNews, he makes a reference to the early days of his Divine Word vocation: “What I have is not the academic degrees but the experience of mission in Ghana as a young missionary priest. So I hope to be able to arouse a missionary spirit among people in the diocese.”
The idea to serve as a missionary in the West African nation of Ghana was planted in the future archbishop’s mind in America, where he was sent in 1983 to learn English. He spent most of that year at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, followed by three months at the Divine Word Theologate in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. While at the Theologate he befriended Father Vincent Boi-Nai SVD (now the bishop of Yendi in Ghana) who told him about his homeland. The seminarian from Japan became convinced Ghana would be a wonderful place to work as a missionary.
Several months after his priestly ordination in March 1986, Fr. Kikuchi was sent to Ghana, becoming the first Japanese confrere to serve as a missionary to Africa. After another six months of language studies, to learn the Krobo language, he was appointed rector of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Osonson, then a remote village without water or electricity.
Besides Osonson, Fr. Kikuchi was in charge of two other major stations with more than 500 members each and 20-plus out-stations with more than 100 members each. “To reach some of those stations, I had to drive for more than an hour and walk through bush for another hour or two,” he recalls in an email to the Mission Center.
“I was alone in Osonson for five years living in a mud-walled mission house built by the late Father Curtis Washington [SVD],” he continues. “It was challenging to work in Osonson, but it was also rewarding as there were so many catechumens coming for baptism every year.”
After eight years in Ghana, Fr. Kikuchi was reassigned to his home country in 1994. The following year he became formation director for Japan. In 1999 he was named provincial of Divine Word Missionaries’ Japan Province. He served in that position until receiving his post to Niigata in 2004, when he was ordained as bishop.
Archbishop Kikuchi retains warm memories of his time in Ghana. He returned there in 2010 to officiate the ordination of five new Divine Word priests, including one—Father Martin Dumas SVD—who had been his altar server 23 years earlier!
The new prelate is also proud to be president of Caritas Japan and Caritas Asia. In this capacity he has overseen disaster-relief efforts following earthquakes and tsunamis that have hit the region. “Working for charitable activities of the Church is one of my pastoral priorities,” he says in his email.
Archbishop Kikuchi will keep his episcopal motto of “Unity in Diversity” and plans to put it into action as he assumes his new duties. “Achieving unity in diversity is my priority in Tokyo,” he tells AsiaNews.
Please join all Divine Word Missionaries in congratulating and praying for Archbishop Kikuchi as he assumes this prestigious role in the Church’s leadership. May the missionary spirit he brought to Ghana continue to serve him well as he faces his new responsibilities, and may he be a wise shepherd to the Catholics living in one of the world’s biggest, busiest cities.