Father Thomas W. Takahashi, MM

Born: August 3, 1919
Ordained: June 13, 1953
Died: January 21, 1989

Father Thomas Wataru Takahashi died at St. Teresa’s residence on January 21, 1989. He was 69 years of age and a Maryknoller for 44 years.

Thomas was born in Los Angeles, CA on August 3, 1919, son of Paul and Hisayo Takahashi. His parents were born in Japan and came to Los Angeles. When Thomas was very young his mother died and his father later married Monica Kazuve Oda. Thomas attended the Maryknoll School in St. Francis Xavier Mission and was graduated from Loyola High in Los Angeles. His mission vocation began in St. Francis Xavier Mission with his close friendship with the Fathers.

After graduation Thomas worked for four years in his father’s barber shop. At the outbreak of the war with Japan the family was interned at the Manzanar Camp and Thomas’ missionary vocation was further influenced because he became a lay leader and catechist among the internees, in close association with Fr. Leo Steinbach and two Maryknoll Sisters. One of his students in the Camp was the future Maryknoll priest Fr. Bryce Nishimura. After release from the Camp the family moved to Boys Town, Nebraska where Mr. Takahashi obtained employment at Fr. Flanagan’s Boys Town. Thomas worked there for a summer and then came to the Venard in July, 1944. He was ordained a priest with his class on June 13, 1953.

After Ordination Father Thomas was assigned to Japan where he spent his entire missionary apostolate of 35 years. He was a generous, hardworking missioner and always sensitive to discrimination and bigotry. Perhaps his heaviest personal cross was the discrimination of dual racism which he felt deeply. It was the same in Japan as it was in America: Japanese-American and American-Japanese. In Japan his spoken language was not perfectly refined and this, too, caused him much anguish. He became an assistant pastor of the Sonobe Parish, Kyoto Diocese in 1956 and 3 years later was transferred to Kujo Parish. After furlough in 1960 he was named pastor of Uji Parish and 3 years later to the Tanabe Parish, in 1963, both in Kyoto.

On his second furlough he attended the Missioners Conference at the Center in 1965 and on return to Japan he was appointed Director of the Center for Korean Catholics in Kyoto. He was very happy in that work because the Koreans accepted him and loved him. Like himself, they suffered from race prejudice. He served them for five years. Preparing himself to teach English as a second language he took an English Teachers Guidance Course in Los Angeles. Returning to Japan he was assigned to the Good Shepherd Movement and in 1977 was named pastor of Ise Parish in Mie. After celebrating his 25th Ordination Anniversary he was the Chaplain and Counselor in the Kusatsu Hospital in Shiga, run by the Visitation Sisters. He wrote: “My assignment to work with the Visitation Sisters was repayment for what they did for my family in Los Angeles (when those Sisters staffed St. Francis Xavier School prior to Maryknoll’s presence in 1920). Working with the Sisters brings many opportunities to comfort the sick and speak to them of Christ.”

Since he had a deep love of Sacred Scripture, and was often seen reading his Bible, in 1986 he fulfilled a long-cherished desire of attending the Maryknoll Spiritual Renewal Program in the Holy Land. In November, 1988, Fr. Takahashi went to the Shiga University Hospital in Seta for medical care. When it was suggested that he go to Los Angeles for further medical treatment and be with his family he replied that he wanted to be with his family and that family was Maryknoll. He dearly loved his natural family but always said that the family to which he owed so much was Maryknoll. He came home to St. Teresa’s residence on December 21, 1988.

Wake services were held at St. Teresa’s and the Center conducted by Fr. John King. Brother Adrian Mazuchowski read the biography and Mass of Christian Burial was offered the next day (January 24) with Fr. Emile Dumas as Principal Celebrant and Fr. Ronald Saucci as Homilist. Interment was in the Maryknoll Cemetery with Fr. William Boteler conducting the ceremony.