24 Sep How I Got to Saint Louis
An Interview with Canon Ueda
He is a Japanese convert to the Faith. Canon Raphael Ueda, Vicar of Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, in a recent interview with Regina Magazine discussed his background as a Catholic priest of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest and the work that is being done at the Oratory located at the Cathedral of South Saint Louis.
REGINA: When were you ordained, and how did you become a priest of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest?
Canon Ueda: I was not born a Catholic. Divine Providence guided me to an encounter with the Catholic faith. For those who are in the Catholic Church the veracity of the Church is very evident, but for me who is not Catholic by birth, especially born in Japan (in the far east where Catholicism is in its entirety not known) it was not so easy. But as always Divine Providence guides those who are sincerely looking for the truth in a very mysterious way.
I was born in Kobe, Japan, in 1968; I studied as a medical student to become a doctor in Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital of the country for more than one thousand years. However God had another plan for me. An Italian missionary baptized me when I was 27 years old in Kobe. That same year I left for Quebec, Canada where I would learn the French language (in the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, French is the common language.)
At this time I did not know that one day I would join the Institute, but providentially this stay in Quebec allowed me to. In 2001 I joined Saint Phillip Neri Seminary (the seminary of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest) in Florence, Italy. After 8 years of prayer, study, and hard work His Eminence, Raymond Cardinal Burke ordained me a priest in Florence, Italy. It was a long journey to become a priest. After my ordination, I stayed for a year in Europe, and in 2010 I was assigned to the Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago, Illinois. There I served as Vicar for two years. It was an exciting experience to stay in this windy and dynamic city.
After 8 years of prayer, study, and hard work His Eminence, Raymond Cardinal Burke ordained me a priest in Florence, Italy. It was a long journey to become a priest.
Then in 2012 I was assigned to Saint Francis de Sales Oratory here in Saint Louis as Vicar. I am very grateful to serve the faithful of the city Saint Louis, which is called Rome of the West because of its longstanding Catholic culture tradition, which is both dynamic and diverse. The faithful are great. They are generous and sincerely looking for the love of God. They love the Catholic Church.
REGINA: What are some of the greatest challenges you encounter as a priest? How have they affected your priesthood?
Canon Ueda: I was baptized as a Catholic but that does not mean I cease to be Japanese. I left Japan in 1995. Since then I have had several occasions to return. Living previously in Quebec, Italy, and now the U.S., it is always a challenge for me to grow as Catholic in a harmonious way without losing my identity as Japanese. Jesus was called as Jesus of Nazareth.
Even though the Catholic faith is universal, when we live our faith in a concrete way, we need to take flesh in the place where we are put by Divine Providence. This is really a challenge for me. Preserving identity while remaining open is a process that will continue to entail much pain and confusion. It is a process likely to be carried along on the tide of risk taking and withdrawal, expansion and contraction, exhilaration and disappointment, consolation and desolation, integration and disintegration.
I was born in Kobe, Japan, in 1968; I studied as a medical student to become a doctor in Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital of the country for more than one thousand years. However God had another plan for me. An Italian missionary baptized me when I was 27 years old in Kobe.
REGINA: What do you hope to achieve in Saint Louis?
Canon Ueda: The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest is an international community. The members come from all over the world. As of now, I am the only Japanese priest but the diversity of origin of all the Institutes members has helped me. The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has received the mission from the Church to celebrate the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite in its integrity.
This venerable Liturgy which fostered the souls of Catholics for thousands of years has help me to understand the transcendence of God. Since my ordination by Cardinal Raymond Burke in 2009, I have been celebrating this Liturgy every day. Our superiors say: “Service of Christ the King Sovereign Priest is the leading goal of our existence. Every member of the Institute wants to belong fully to the Lord through His Eternal Priesthood and His Supernatural Kingship. Under the protection of His Immaculate Mother, we try to conform our will to the Divine Will in every moment of our lives.
We wish to be modeled into faithful servants of His Kingship, who receive all their strength from Divine Grace flowing from the Holy Mysteries of the Liturgy. The center of our spiritual life is the Altar and the Divine Office.
This is true. I can realize this truth more and more every day.
Our Archbishop, Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson wrote the preface for the Oratory’s booklet in which he says “We are proud of the contributions the Catholic Church has made to the rich traditions and history of all our community and our state.”
The people and clergy in Saint Louis have a genuine love of God. It is a blessing for me to exercise my ministry in Saint Louis as a part of local and universal Church.
REGINA: Tell us about the homeschool co-op at the Oratory; what it is, how it’s organized, and what have been the greatest challenges and rewards of teaching.
Canon Ueda: In the spirit of the Apostolic Constitution Sacrae Disciplinae Legis (Pope John Paul II, 1983), Catholic parents are specifically graced by Christ to exercise the charism of teaching their children in accord with the magisterium of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. To that aim, the Saint Francis de Sales Homeschool Co-op was established as an aid to parents in providing this education to their children in matters of faith, academics, social direction, and to provide an environment of support for the parents to their home schooling endeavor, all of which is to give greater glory to God. The Co-op is an organization under the leadership of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and the day-to-day affairs of the Co-op are managed by a volunteer committee. Indeed the children are the future of the Church and our society; they need a very solid formation to be able to carry the responsibility of life.
The homeschool co-op at Saint Francis de Sales began fall of 2007 with approximately 22 families. There were around 60 children in K-8th grade at the beginning. We were given access to half of the 3rd floor of the 1888 building (the former grade school of Saint Francis de Sales Parish, built in 1888), which was full of debris. We had to clean it and do many repairs. We offered Latin, Catechism, art, music, drama, science, and physical education. By the grace of God and the tireless efforts of both mothers and teachers, the homeschool co-op at Saint Francis de Sales has grown into the 28 families and almost 100 students!
By the grace of God and the tireless efforts of both mothers and teachers, the homeschool co-op at Saint Francis de Sales has grown into the 28 families and almost 100 students!
Jesus said that ‘you are in this world but not of this world.' In this secularized world the desire of parents to keep their children apart from the world might be very great. Nevertheless Jesus says that you should be in this world. So our objective is to educate our children so they can be strong enough to resist against the temptation of this world. Our goals reach much further than just the education of the children, who are the future to edify the Church and convert the world.
This is a real challenge, especially in our days when government has become too strong and wants dictate everything, but our mothers are very courageous. They will begin this year putting together a group for our young people, grades 7-12, to socialize and contribute to the Oratory. This will offer opportunities for the children to volunteer at the Oratory by cleaning, babysitting, fundraising, and just being available to the parish needs, as well as opportunities to volunteer outside the Oratory with pro-life work and visiting the elderly. Also, the mothers like the thought of the young people having the chance to spend time with like-minded people and have fun.
Children have still very tender hearts. They can sense the truth and the good. And they are very eager to learn and grow up. So it is the greatest reward of teaching for me to see that they absorb and assimilate our teachings and grow up in the love and the truth of God.
This is a real challenge, especially in our days when government has become too strong and wants dictate everything, but our mothers are very courageous.
REGINA: I know you are very active in Sursum Corda. Tell us about this organization and any upcoming events.
Canon Ueda: Sursum Corda is a national young adults group, ages 18 to 35, under the direction of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. The goal of the Institute is to extend the reign of Christ in society. To this end the Sursum Corda group is formed to foster the necessary harmony between spiritual, social and cultural life of the youth. This is done through group prayer, faith discussion, fun activities, and charity work as a means of building up Catholic identity. In our age we can get almost everything in a very fast and convenient way. Social networking often fuels and informs our personal lives, but we also need personal contact to share our joys, dreams, and concerns with other young people so that all of us can be encouraged to continue our lives in the love of God.
Pope Francis encourages us to build up the culture of encounter and dialogue. Of course email is a wonderful way to communicate, but to see our friends face to face, talk and share a time together is indispensable in our lives.
I would like to cite a text, which one of group members wrote about our last gathering. You can feel their joy.
“Last weekend saw another enjoyable Sursum Corda get-together at Saint Francis de Sales Oratory. This one was made more special by the addition of some of the young adults from the Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago! A few enthusiastic Saint Louis Susum Cordians were on hand to greet them on Friday night but the majority of the record attendance (41!!) came on Saturday, which began with eight ‘o clock Mass.
A”fter a breakfast in the hall, everyone piled into vehicles for the hour and a half drive to Onandoga Cave in Leesburg, MO. In spite of being very cold and clammy, the cave tour was most impressive and instructive. Everyone had a chance to discuss the cave at a picnic lunch outside of the visitor’s center before enjoying some barbecue and volleyball!
“We were also treated to a spiritual conference by Canon Ueda on Pope Francis’ new encyclical Lumen Fidei, a powerful reminder of the importance of faith in our lives. The gathering broke up after ten ‘o clock Mass, followed by brunch on Sunday to end one of the most enjoyable weekends of my life. Things at the convent were never quiet as the girls discussed everything from old movies, to the Civil War, to family Christmas traditions!”
On Saturday, 14 September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and sixth anniversary of the implementation of Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, Sursum Corda visited the Shrine of Saint Joseph, located just north of downtown Saint Louis. Founded in 1843 by the Jesuits, the Shrine is a beautiful example of Romanesque Revival architecture, and is the location of the only Vatican-authenticated miracle in the Midwest.
Although we have visited the Shrine in the past, this time we were able to have a High Mass, with a choir formed from our own members. The Mass was open to the public and I am grateful to Divine Providence for this timely grace. May Saint Joseph help the young!
St. Francis de Sales, ora pro nobis
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PHOTO CREDITS: PHIL ROUSSIN