Father James S. Tokuhisa, MM
Born: March 4, 1915
Ordained: June 11, 1949
Died: July 4, 1979
Father James S. Tokuhisa died in the hospital at Tsu Shi on July 4, 1979. A year ago he wrote: “It seems to me I don’t have enough patience and brains to study, and my time is up, which means I won’t live too long from now, I feel.” During the last year of his life, as indeed through his entire mission career, he lived what he said in another letter: “I try to do my best to be a good Maryknoller and man of God, with His help.”
Father Tokuhisa was born in Port Blakely, Washington on March 4, 1915, the son of Kinu Tokuhisa and Eizo Tokuhisa who were inmigrants to the United States after the Japanese Russian War. His mother died two months after his birth and his father sent him with his two older sisters to Japan where he completed his grammar school education in Yamaguchi and was graduated from the Agricultural School in Ogori before returning to the U.S. at the age of 17. In later life be was to confirm his roots in Yamaguchi because St. Francis Xavier labored there – an attachment in retrospect, since he was converted by members of the Maryknoll mission in Los Angeles who were patrons of the grocery store where he was employed for 3 years.
Baptized on July 3, 1938, James entered Maryknoll the following year on the Feast of the 26 Japanese Martyrs, February 5th. As a seminarian, his struggle with the language made study difficult, but his outgoing cooperative nature led to his ordination on June 11, 1949. One of the disappointments in his life was the fact that he did not have time to explain his faith fully to his father, who died a few months after James entered Maryknoll.
During his mission career in Japan, but including a short period of work among the Japanese in Bolivia, he took as his model the Japanese proverb “Byaku-bun wa Ikken ni Shikazu” (To see once is worth more than to hear a hundred times).
Father Tokuhisa’s mission career was spent as a parish priest who always had difficulties with reports and organization, but who found great success in personal contact with parishioners and with such varied groups as kindergarden children, nurses, sisters in novitiate training and prisoners. He wrote: “What makes a missioner a real missioner, he must choose voluntary cross daily and be humble.” After a flood in Kyoto in 1953, he refused an official decoration for his part in saving 170 lives, saying “It was my duty to save souls and lives; a man shouldn’t get reward for doing his duty.”
The funeral and burial took place in Sacred Heart Parish, Tsu-shi, Japan, on July 6, 1979 and at Maryknoll, N.Y. the Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated on July 9th with Fr. Joseph O’Neill, a classmate, as principal celebrant and Fr. Gerard L. Beausoleil, his former Regional Superior in Japan, as homilist.
The closing of a recent letter would be all that a Maryknoller might prayerfully ask the Father for James: “May the hands of the Infant Jesus bless you and bring you abundant blessings, and Our Mother Mary show you the way to her Son always.”