Thomas P. Purcell, O.S.A.

1913 – 2004 (November 27)

Thomas Patrick Purcell, son of Thomas E. Purcell and Martha Madden, was born on May 9, 1913, in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, and baptized in the Church of St. Edward. In 1928, he graduated from St. Edward Elementary School and then worked at an A & P Supermarket until 1931, when he became a postulant at Augustinian Academy, on Staten Island, New York. In September, 1935, he entered Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, New York, where he made his simple profession of vows on September 10, 1936. Three years later he professed solemn vows. In 1940, he received a BA degree from Villanova College, Villanova, Pa. For the next four years he studied theology at Augustinian College, Washington, D.C., where, in 1944, he also earned an MA in history at Catholic University. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 29, 1943, by Bishop John M. McNamara, at Trinity College Chapel, Washington, D.C.

Father Purcell’s first assignment was to Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate, where he served as sub-master from 1944 to 1947. In 1947, he was selected to be Assistant Chaplain at Villanova College, where he was also professor of theology and history. From 1950 to 1952, he was vice-rector at Augustinian Academy, while continuing to teach summer school at Villanova College.

In 1952, Father Purcell, together with Fathers George Krupa and Edward Robinson, departed for Japan to establish the first Catholic mission in Nagasaki, after a lapse of 315 years. The parish was entitled Our Mother of Consolation, in the atom-bombed area of Shiroyama, where they also opened the first parochial school in Japan. Father Purcell served that community as Prior and Pastor until 1963.

He established a new parish of Saint Monica in the port area of Nagoya City in 1963 for some 83 families who had come from Nagasaki. These were mostly working class people who formed their own housing co-operative and built their homes with Catholic Centers included. Father was active in the national committee that worked with young Christian workers who emigrated from Nagasaki to the cities of Tokyo and Nagoya. He had written articles on Augustinian related subjects, for the new Japanese Catholic Encyclopedia.

From 1980 to 1988, Father Tom served as Prior and Pastor at St. Augustine Parish in Tokyo. In 1988, he returned to Shiroyama, Nagasaki, as assistant pastor in Our Mother of Consolation parish, until his health began to deteriorate.

The fifty-two years Father Purcell served in the mission of Japan seemed to be fortified by the special grace and desire he expressed in 1952. Back then, he wrote to the Provincial, “Ever since I was a small lad I have had the desire to go to the missions, which may be a natural desire of one of Irish extraction, to want to spread the Faith. So you can see why the rumor that you are thinking of sending men to Japan made me happy. If you wish me to go, I shall be more than willing and happy to comply with your wishes to go to Japan.”

On November 27, 2004, Father Tom, at the age of 91, passed away, while he was a resident of St. Francis Nursing Home in Nagasaki. The main celebrant at the Mass of the Resurrection, in the church of Our Mother of Consolation, was Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, Archbishop of Nagasaki.