Father Hidenari Peter Kawamura, OSB
Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Born: 15 January 1949
Professed: 15 September 1988
Ordained: 15 September 1988
Died: 6 November 2013
ペトロ川村英成 - 三位一体ベネディクト修道院
Hidenari was the first of two children born to Zenzo and Ayako (Takamatsu) Kawamura on 15 January 1949. His younger brother, Takasi, was born three years later. Their mother gave birth to both babies at home with the help of a midwife which was quite common at the time in the small village of Ori. Hidenari’s parents were Shinto-Buddhist but the religious cultural tradition was not so important to them personally or in their children’s upbringing. They were married in March, 1948, in Ori in a civil ceremony.
Zenzo, who graduated from high school in “practical business” with an emphasis in woodworking, became an elementary school teacher after World War II, and later, the Ori village school administrator until his retirement. He valued education highly and encouraged his sons to study!
Kawamura (as is the Japanese custom, people are referred to by their last names) described his childhood and growing up experiences through high school as mostly happy. He recalled two serious conflicts. One was that his father pressured him to study hard. The other is described below. He had several good friends. He enjoyed tobogganing which could be rather dangerous, but was a popular sport in that snowy region. While he was in elementary school his father bought him a pair of alpine skies. In high school he learned to play the recorder. Kawamura graduated from high school in 1968.
Immediately following high school graduation, Kawamura worked about six years as a land surveyor for a hometown company that made women’s socks. Factories were required by the government to provide precise updated survey data on all company properties. He spent the first three years with the company in Tokyo and the final years in Ori. After this employment he tried college but found the academic work too demanding and discontinued in the first year.
Kawamura became interested in Christianity when he became bedridden with severe back pain in junior high school. He began to attend Catholic Mass in his hometown church over the strong and persistent objections of both parents. This was the second source of stress for Kawamura. Later his parents would also strongly disapprove of his entering the seminary. Kawamura’s interest in Christianity was ignited when his father bought him a copy of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, Crime and Punishment, and Kawamura became fascinated by the Christian atmosphere of the novel.
Kawamura began catechetical instructions in the Catholic faith in 1972 with the pastor of Mutsu Church, Father Kenji Yokojima. Kawamura found that the classes were too deep and difficult for him. He did not understand very much and Father Yokojima discouraged his continuing. Kawamura dropped the classes but kept insisting that he wanted to be baptized Catholic. So Father relented and in the summer of 1973 when Kawamura was twenty-four years old he was happily baptized and given the Christian name, Peter.
Three years later in 1976 when Kawamura was 27 years old, Bishop Raymond Augustine Chihiro of the Sendai Diocese gave him permission to begin priesthood studies in the Tokyo Seminary. Still, he had to wait another year because the enrollment deadline had passed. The first year was especially difficult, and Kawamura suffered chronic and severe headaches. The second year was easier, and after seven years (college and seminary) Kawamura was ordained a deacon in 1983 after completing his formal seminary studies. Then came an important interruption that upset his bishop: Kawamura decided he wanted to become a Benedictine.
Kawamura discovered the Benedictines while in the seminary. His fellow seminarian and friend, Tsutomu Itagaki (now a priest in the Sendai Diocese), recommended that he become a monk and told him of the Benedictine monastery in Meguro. This was the beginning of his monastic vocation. He became a candidate for a few months and worked mainly with Brother Nicholas Thelen during this discovery period. He asked to become a novice and was accepted by Father Aloysius Michels who was the superior and pastor, and Kawamura began his year-long novitiate in March 1984. Kawamura professed simple vows on 24 March 1985 and solemn (final) vows on the same date three years later.
Kawamura was ordained a priest by Archbishop Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi (who later became Cardinal) of the Tokyo Archdiocese on 15 September 1988. Father Kawamura began his priestly ministry as the associate pastor of Saint Anselm’s parish while Father Aloysius was still pastor. Although somewhat shy, as a young priest Kawamura enjoyed meeting and working with the faithful in the many activities of his pastoral ministry.
medical challenges that compromised his energy and activities. He remained active in community life. In addition to monastery chores, his responsibilities included priestly work, for example, presiding at the community Mass, ministering the sacrament of reconciliation, being the chaplain once a week at a nearby residence for the elderly, and assisting in regional parishes on weekends as invited. He also provided spiritual direction for guests on request. Kawamura was a gentle person of good humor who smiled easily. He celebrated his silver jubilee of priestly ordination in September of 2013.
Monks and friends celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial for Father Kawamura on Monday, November 11 at 11 am. His body was cremated immediately after the Mass and his ashes placed in the Meguro Church Columbarium.
The community of Saint John’s Abbey celebrated his life and his death with the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist of Christian Burial on 12 November, 2013.
We ask each community member to offer two Masses according to the manner of his participation in the priesthood of Christ. We commend our brother, Kawamura, to your prayers.
Abbot John Klassen OSB
and the monks of Saint John’s Abbey