Monday, August 22, 2016


Bishop Ishigami at his priestly ordination (2nd from left) in 1952

Tadamaro Ishigami was born in 1920 in the Northern Ryukyu islands of Japan.

At the age of 7, he was baptized a Roman Catholic and given the Christian name Augustine.

At age 13, he was already off to a minor seminary in mainland Japan.

Then World War II broke out and Tadamaro was drafted into the Japanese Army. When the war ended with Japan's defeat, Tadamaro went back home to his little village on a little island in the Ryukyus.

The tiny Catholic community was without missionaries, due to the war. The faithful still gathered for prayers. Tadamaro was one of the lay leaders of the community, having had some seminary training.

In 1947, Rome entrusted the Catholic mission of Okinawa (Ryukyus) to the American Capuchins. Of the two Capuchins sent to Okinawa that year, one had been a missionary on Guam before the war, Father Felix Ley, and was thus sent by the Japanese to prisoner of war camp. For the three and a half years he was a prisoner in Japan, Father Felix picked up a little Japanese. He was very willing to go back to Japan as a missionary.

Tadamaro was at the dock when the two American Capuchins arrived.

Although Father Felix spoke a tiny bit of Japanese, it was not enough for him to communicate well with Tadamaro. Tadamaro could not speak English at all. What to do?

They spoke in Latin. That was the language that united two American Catholics and one Japanese Catholic.

Tadamaro greeted the missionaries and said, "Est maximum gaudium mihi servire vobis." "It is my greatest joy to serve you."

Ishigami as a layman meeting Guam's Bishop Baumgartner. Okinawa was under Guam's Catholic jurisdiction for a short time right after WW2.  Baumgartner ordained Ishigami a priest in 1952.

Ishigami later joined the Capuchins and was given the religious name Peter Baptist. Twenty-some years later he became Bishop of Okinawa.

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