Spring is finally here!

I hope wherever you are the weather is warm sunshine and cool, gentle breezes. There are many ways to celebrate the beginning of spring, but one of the most beautiful is the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival. Running from March 20th to April 16th, this month long festival celebrates nature’s renewal and Japanese culture. If you can’t travel to Japan to see this gorgeous natural phenomenon, it’s also celebrated in Washington, D.C. (https://nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/).

Trevor and I were hoping to share an exhibition of Cherry Blossom photographs from our collection… but the Mission Archives does not have any! (If any Maryknollers out there have cherry blossom festival photos from Mission in Japan, we would love copies.)

Instead, I want to discuss the life and legacy of Fr. Thomas A. Barry, a Maryknoll priest who was missioned in Japan.

“The Venard, Clark’s Summit PA, 1916-1967: The Venard was Maryknoll’s first junior seminary, providing four years of high school education and two years of junior college courses to candidates from the Eastern states. It also offered two years of special Latin education for candidates who lacked sufficient Latin to be admitted to college.”

~ Notes from the Junior Seminaries Collection, 1916-1969 at the Maryknoll Mission Archives

Fr. Thomas A. Barry – The Early Years

Thomas Anthony Barry was born on November 4, 1909 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was the son of Thomas F. and Mary (Hurley) Barry, and the youngest of five siblings. Shortly after their son’s birth, the family was struck by tragedy. The elder Thomas Barry died of influenza on January 6, 1910. Records suggest Mrs. Barry never remarried, instead laboring to ensure the health and wellbeing of her children.

Young Thomas Barry began his education at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School when he was only 4 years old. The Notre Dame Sisters running the school agreed to enroll him a year early so that his mother could work during the day. The Sisters’ generosity allowed the family to stay afloat financially and afford a strong Catholic education for Thomas. Now known as Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy, the school continues to serve the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Before graduation from grammar school, Thomas applied to study at the Venard Apostolic School in Clark’s Green, Pennsylvania. He was inspired by his brother William, who was studying to be a Redemptorist priest. Thomas knew at 13 years old (!) that he wanted to be a Maryknoll missionary. Unfortunately, the Junior Seminary couldn’t accept him because he was too young, but encouraged him to apply again next year. Disappointed but undeterred, he spent a year at Boston College High School and was accepted to the Venard in 1924.

From the Venard Junior Seminary, Fr. Barry continued his studies at the Maryknoll Seminary. He was ordained on June 16, 1937 and assigned to mission in Japan. By the end of July 1937, he found himself on a ship bound for his new home.

While Fr. Barry was always busy in mission, he made time for fun. Here we see him relaxing with friends and community members at a baseball game. All work and no play makes for a very dull Missioner.

Photograph of Fr. Thomas Barry in Yamashina, Japan.

Mission in Japan – There and Back Again

Fr. Barry was assigned and reassigned several times during his life in Japan. The following is a rough timeline of his journey reconstructed from news articles and his own memories.

Aug 1937 – 1938 : Fushimi and Hatsunecho

One of the first Maryknollers in Japan, Fr. Barry was selected to participate in this exciting new venture. Being a missioner requires flexibility and a willingness to go where you are needed. This may explain why he did not stay in either city for very long, and later settled in Sanjo.

1938 – 1941 : Sanjo

Mission in Sanjo required “hard work and ceaseless effort” from Fr. Barry. Earning the trust of his new community proved more difficult than originally anticipated. To make matters worse, an accidental fire burned down the church and rectory. Local authorities accused him of arson, and he was monitored by detectives until Japan and the U.S. entered WWII.

1942 – 1946 : Internment and Repatriation to the United States

Like many Maryknollers, Fr. Barry was interned during World War II. He was rescued and returned to the States by the famous MS Gripsholm. Following his repatriation, he served as an assistant at St. Aloysius Church in downtown Detroit.

1946 – 1951 : Tsu City

(see Tsu City, Japan below)

1952 – 1954 : Ginza District, Tokyo

This unique church was located on the seventh floor of a department store in the heart of Toyko’s famous shopping district. Hopefully none of the parishioners were afraid of heights!

1955 – 1956 : Yamashina

Our records don’t say much about his time in Yamashina. Thankfully, we do have a photograph from his time here. His fan and the crowd’s apparel suggest it’s a warm day there. Everyone seems to be cheerful despite the heat. This photo is my favorite from our collection because it’s a rare candid image of him. Fr. Barry typically wears a more serious expression, especially in his formal portraits, but here he seems to radiate joy.

1956 – 1971 : Tsu City

(see Tsu City, Japan below)

Tsu City, Japan

Fr. Barry was assigned to Tsu City from 1946 to 1951, and again from 1956 until his death in 1971. During these periods, Fr. Barry was the pastor to Tsu Catholic Church. He ministered to hundreds of parishioners on a weekly basis, including countless baptisms, marriages, and deaths. Correspondence shows that he was deeply devoted to his parish and was constantly looking for opportunities to expand the church’s community outreach.

The church is still in existence, and can be viewed on Google maps. There are also a number of photos available here, featuring both the interior and exterior of the building.

Tsu Catholic Church
18-21 Nishimarunouchi
Tsu-shi, Mie-ken, Japan 514

Tsu Catholic Church is located in the downtown area of Tsu City. The church is situated roughly three blocks south-west of Tsu City Hall and the Community Center, and six blocks north-west of the city Police Station. To the east lies Oshiro Park and the famous Tsu Castle Ruins. Fr. Barry’s correspondence to Maryknoll mentions meeting with City Officials on a number of occasions, so he would have been familiar with this part of town.

Fr. Barry during a meeting with local business men, Tsu City, Japan

Fr. Barry, Sr. Sabina, and Hirayama Sensei stand in front of Tsu Catholic Church with their latest Confirmation Group, 1948-1949

Tsu Castle by 663highland, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32037958

Fr. Barry’s major contribution to the area was the establishment of Tsu Catholic Nursery School. When Fr. Barry was assigned to Tsu City, plots of land were still available for sale. The city was growing, and Fr. Barry saw an opportunity to support the Catholic Church and its families. He successfully negotiated financial assistance from city officials to help build the school and Maryknoll was able to purchase the land. Records suggest the nursery school was originally located “close to the Tsu Shin-machi Station and not far from the St. Joseph’s School”. At some point, it was relocated to the same block as the Tsu Catholic Church.

Tsu Catholic Nursery School has served several generations of students since its opening in the late 1960’s. The school even has their own website: https://tsucathl.jp/. It includes images of their current students and faculty along with a copy of their busy daily schedule.

Kyoto Diocese in Mourning

Fr. Barry’s death on April 14, 1971 was sudden and unexpected. Tsu Catholic Church parishioners and Kyoto Diocese collectively mourned his loss. His wake was hosted at Sacred Heart Church in Tsu City on April 16th. His funeral was held on the morning of April 17th. Bishop Paul Yoshiyuki Furuya, Ordinary of Kyoto Diocese, was the principal celebrant at the funeral which was concelebrated by Fr. John McCormack, Superior General of Maryknoll, and other priests throughout Kyoto Diocese.

Fr. Barry’s parishioners worked together to cover his funeral costs, and he was laid to rest in Tsu Catholic Cemetery. He remains there to this day. While his final resting place is not physically accessible to those of us in the United States, his headstone can still be viewed online thanks to Asahi Ishizaki, a volunteer with Find a Grave.

Fr. Barry speaks to two parishioners in front of Tsu Catholic Church

Interested in learning more about Fr. Thomas A. Barry or Maryknoll Mission in Japan? Do you have a relative associated with Maryknoll?

Their records might also be in the Mission Archives. We would love to help you reconnect with your family’s history.

You can contact the Archives at:

Maryknoll Mission Archives
PO Box 305, Maryknoll, New York 10545
Phone: 914-941-7636
Office hours: 8:30 am-4:00 pm Monday-Friday
Email: archives@maryknoll.org
Website: www.maryknollmissionarchives.org


Events DC. (2023, February 4). 2023 Festival: March 20 – April 16 Washington, DC. National Cherry Blossom Festival. Retrieved from https://nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/

Father Thomas A. Barry, MM. Maryknoll Mission Archives. (2014, April 16). Retrieved from https://maryknollmissionarchives.org/deceased-fathers-bro/father-thomas-a-barry-mm/

Google. (n.d.). Catholic Tsu Church. Google maps. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/maps/place/Catholic+Tsu+Church/@34.717721,136.503302,325m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x60040cc4cf64d685:0xb8b122c196cd0ed2!8m2!3d34.7176725!4d136.503046

Google. (n.d.). Tsu Catholic Nursery School. Google maps. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/maps/place/Tsu+Catholic+Nursery+School/@34.7175997,136.5034547,19.75z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x60040cc4cf6e2a2f:0x14a1dc6f8c66c41c!8m2!3d34.7177942!4d136.5035714

Home Page. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://olphca.org/.

Junior seminaries collection, 1916-1969: Maryknoll Mission Archives. Maryknoll Mission Archives. (2013). Retrieved from https://maryknollmissionarchives.libraryhost.com/index.php?p=collections%2Fcontrolcard&id=366&q=venard

Kamsler, B. C. (2012, September 17). The Gripsholm Exchange and Repatriation Voyages. The Burke Library Blog. Retrieved from https://blogs.cul.columbia.edu/burke/2012/09/17/the-gripsholm-exchange-and-repatriation-voyages-2/

Rev Thomas a Barry (1909-1971). Find a Grave. (2013, May 4). Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/109956934/thomas-a-barry.

Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, August 5). Tsu Castle. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsu_Castle

津カトリックこども園. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://tsucathl.jp/

Fr. Barry overseeing an ordination ceremony in Kyoto, Japan

Fr. Barry surrounded by parishioners in Sakamoto, Kyoto, Japan