On July 16, 2018, Fr. Josep M. Abella Battle was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Osaka. After finishing 24 years of service to the Universal Congregation in the General Government, FR. Abella returned to Japan and was appointed parish priest of Imaichi, the first place founded by the Claretian Missionaries upon arrival to Japan more almost 70 years ago. Soon, Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda Archbishop of Osaka, recently appointed Cardinal, requested the Coordinator of Japan, Fr. Shinji Takenobu, to have Fr. Abella appointed as Parish priest of the Cathedral. The East Asia Delegation Government agreed, and he joined his new post by April 2017. A bit more than a year later we received the news of his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Osaka.
Indeed, this appointment comes as a great honor for our Congregation that has been laboring hard in the Osaka Archidiocese since Archbishop Pablo Taguchi (who had studied Canon Law under P. Larraona and P. Maroto) asisted on May 7, 1950 to the canonization of Fr. Claret in Rome. After the ceremony he had an interview with Fr. General Pedro Schweiger where they shared about the Claretian foundation in Japan (something Fr. Schweiger had already proposed in the March 1950 General Council), the first nation Consecrated to the Heart of Mary in 1844 (and then again in 1945 at the end of the war).
By September 9, 1951 Fr. Anthony Briskey, an USA claretian working in the Philippines, arrived to Osaka diocese to start setting up the Claretian mission. Some of the positions we started as mission centers, like Takatsuki -where the RMI sisters also have a kindergarten and a retreat house, have been given to the diocese. The parishes of Imaichi (with Daito and Kadoma ) and Hirakata, with the respective kindergartens, are still served by us. We also help in the Dioceses of Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo.
The Celebration by Osaka Archbishop Cardinal, started on a hot at sunny day (the mercury reached 39 that day) at 11:00 in the Cathedral of Osaka. Together with Fr. Abella, Fr. Paul Toshihiro Sakai, a member of the Personal Prelature of the Opus Dei, was also consecrated as auxiliary bishop of Osaka Diocese. The Church was full of people from all over Osaka archdiocese and even from neighboring dioceses, like Kyoto or Kobe. The celebration was indeed on occasion of Archbishop Maeda appointment as Cardinal of the Church; to start this service ordaining two new bishops for Osaka diocese is, indeed, a good omen.
After the liturgical celebration there was a simple sharing of snacks, although the new bishops had to bear the striking sun to take pictures with many people who liked to show them their appreciation.
In the evening the Delegation invited the Family of Fr. Abella (two sisters Montserrat y Sunsi, and his brother in Law Agustí), the representative of Fr. General, Fr. Ricard Costa Jussá (Superior of Catalunya province) Fr. Olomí, representatives of the RMI Sisters some family members of Japanese claretians and a few lay friends to a simple dinner.
Once more, we thank Msgr. Abella for his untiring missionary zeal and his love of the word of God, his missionary encouragement and also his courage in accepting this new appointment to serve the Universal Church as auxiliary bishop of Osaka. May our Mother Mary have him and his plans always under her protection and care. May the Holy Spirit inspire him words of wisdom and healing actions throughout his service as pastor of the people of God; for sure his life as claretian missionary has imbued him with “the smell of the sheep”.