Japanese Anglican Priest to Enter the Catholic Church

The Rev'd Satoru Kato

On the heels of yesterday's story about Dean Sellers of Fargo, UCANews.com is carrying the story of another Anglican Communion priest who will be entering the Catholic Church:

By ucanews.com special correspondent, Tokyo

Father Satoru Kato, 56, until recently an Anglican priest working in England, is set to enter full communion with the Catholic Church and be ordained a Catholic priest.

According to Father Hiroshi Oka of the Saitama diocese, who has been helping coordinate the convert’s entry into that diocese, once he is ordained Kato will work at a welfare institute and parishes as an assistant priest in Gunma Prefecture. Since Christmas, he has been doing interim work in Gunma.

Since Kato is married, Oka began to educate lay Catholics last December, explaining that priests are frequently married in Eastern Rite communities of the Catholic Church. “At first, there was a general feeling of displeasure among the laity,” Oka explained, “but I think that has mostly dissipated.”

Kato, who studied Buddhism in Japan, was baptized in a Protestant Church, but received instruction about liturgy from a Jesuit priest.

Later, he went to England and studied sacramental and liturgical theology, again with Jesuits. But because, among other things, he was already married, he felt called to the Anglican priesthood and was so ordained. “I served a particularly Catholic tradition, the so called Anglo-Catholic tradition, within the Anglican Church,” he explained.

All the while, Kato, like many of his ecclesiastical colleagues, suffered pain and sadness at the Anglican Church’s separation from the Catholic Church. In particular, the row over the ordination of women as priests in the Anglican Communion led him to a tipping point. “Concerning ordination and all of the sacraments, I stand with Rome; and now I have a new prayer: that I might live and die as a member of the worldwide Catholic Church,” he said.

Bishop Daiji Tani of Saitama is awaiting permission from Rome to ordain Kato in the near future. One condition of the ordination will be that Father Kato will not become a pastor.

“With the support of Bishop Tani, I will be allowed to return to communion with the pope. At last my spirit can be at ease,” said Father Kato.

Toshiyasu Takei, 64, a lay leader in the diocese who is helping with the ordination plans, recalled his own surprise upon hearing of Kato’s case. “I had heard the news (that an Anglican priest was converting), but I thought it was a story about England. I never thought he would be coming to my own diocese!”

Oka has made a special request for Takei to take into account when planning the ordination: “Please don’t forget to set aside a moment for Father Kato’s wife to offer her own greetings!”

Author: Br. Stephen Treat, O.Cist

Br. Stephen Treat, O.Cist. is a monk of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank. Like many others, his path led from an evangelical childhood in the South to Anglicanism and into the Roman Catholic Church. Our Lady of Spring Bank is a small Abbey of the Order of Cistercians, generally known as the Common Cistercians, located on 600 acres near La Crosse, Wisconsin.

19 thoughts on “Japanese Anglican Priest to Enter the Catholic Church”

  1. Father Kato studied at St Stephens House, Oxford. He then served his title in Blackburn diocese. I was with him at both stages. I have no recollection of any Jesuit input into the studies at Oxford and there was certainly no such input at Broughton ( Preston ) . My memory is that he was working on a translation of Gregory Dix into Japanese. No one spoke Japanese at Staggers so we never really understood that much. He is a lovely chap with a nice wife and lots of children.

      1. Don,

        You asked: Any news about the Scottish Ordinariate groups?

        Scotland has a separate (Catholic) episcopal conference from that of England and Wales, and thus is not within the territory of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

        IIRC, I saw a report a few weeks ago which indicated that the Catholic bishops of Scotland do not believe that there is enough interest in the country to move forward, and that may well be the case.

        >> Although The Traditional Anglican Church (TTAC) identifies itself as the province of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) for England, Scotland, and Wales, none of the locations listed in its directory of parishes or missions of TTAC are in Scotland, as best I can tell — but please correct me if I'm wrong about this. I may well be a bit more knowledgeable than most Americans about the geography of the Brisish Isles, but that's not saying much. I would never claim to be an expert!

        >> The directory of parishes of Forward in Faith (FIF) in the United Kingdom lists only four (4) parishes in Scotland (in Aberdeen, Dundee, Fort William, and Inverness).

        I think that the practical minimum for an ordinariate would be about six parishes of modest size with perhaps ten to twelve presbyters and bishops, as the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus requires at least six presbyters in addition to the ordinary to constitute a governing council.

        That said, the plain reality is that the norms of Anglicanorum coetibus does leave a gap. There really is not a good solution for conferences of bishops in territories that have a few Anglican commmunities, like Scotland and Japan. An "ordinariate" certainly could have as few as about five or six parishes of moderate size staffed by perhaps ten or twelve presbyters, with its "chancery" consisting of the ordinary and perhaps one or two administrative assistants that handles matters pertaining to the Anglican patrimony and administration that relies on the dioceses within which it has parishes for the preponderance of pastoral programs and resources. At the other extreme, a single parish in a territory would have to operate under the local diocesan bishop in the manner of the present "Anglican Use" parishes here in the States, but even that situation would be sustainable if such parishes produce enough vocations to meet their own need for clergy. The awkward situation is in a place where there a few parishes and missions, but not enough to constitute an ordinariate under the norms of Anglicanorum coetibus, in the territory of a conference of bishops.


        1. In the UK at least, it might be theoretically possible for the initial ordinariate-heading groups in Scotland to be administratively part of the OLW Ordinariate, which situation might work if there were a (more or less) formal agreement between the E&W bishops and the Scottish bishops to allow that to happen.

          Whilst in its infancy, a Scottish branch of the E&W Ordinariate could, presumably, draw in Scottish resources (marriage tribunals and so on), whilst remaining headed by the English-and-Welsh Ordinary.

          Then, if they were to grow, they could establish their own Scottish Ordinariate. I suspect that, in this particular situation, that kind of flexibility might work.

          That said, it doesn't address the Japanese situation in quite the same way.

    1. Russ,

      You wrote: This could be a good thing for ordinariate developments in Japan. These are exciting times.

      Yes, I agree. If the good padre would become part of an ordinariate in Japan, he will bring Japan that much closer to critical mass for its canonical erection.

      Does anybody know how many parishes are part of Nippon Kristos Sei Ko Kai? I don't have a good read as to whether there might be "critical mass" for an ordinariate there.


      1. I guess I can answer this since I am in the Nippon Kirisuto Sei Ko Kai. We have a few house fellowships at this point, but none that could be called a parish, and none in Tokyo where I live. Our big get-together will be on February 11 in Yokohama where we will hopefully learn a little bit more about our future. I'm hoping our Web site which was created in October has had the effect of informing interested folks who had been hoping to join all these years but didn't know who to contact.

        http://www.nkskk.org (all in Japanese!)

        1. Russ,

          Thank you for posting the summary!

          You wrote: We have a few house fellowships at this point, but none that could be called a parish, and none in Tokyo where I live.

          I doubt that the size of your congregations would be a major obstacle to establishment of an ordinariate in Japan. As elsewhere, the Nippon Kirisuto Sei Ko Kai probably will not be the only group to join such an ordinariate. The more likely critical questions are (1) how many clergy the ordinariate would have and (2) how sustainable it would be.

          You continued: Our big get-together will be on February 11 in Yokohama where we will hopefully learn a little bit more about our future.

          There has been some discussion of a connection between the Nippon Kirisuto Sei Ko Kai (and other former Anglicans who become part of the Catholic Church) and the ordinariate for Australia, but my guess is that the matter is still unresolved. It clearly is on Archbishop Hepworth's agenda, though!

          http://www.nkskk.org (all in Japanese!)

          Unfortunately, I have not yet learned to read Japanese. I would like to be more familiar with the situation there. A bilingual site (Japanese and English) would be helpful. FWIW, Cardinal Levada, the former Archbishop of San Francisco who is now the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, probably also would find a bilingual site to be more useful, as he probably does not read Japanese.


          1. Norm, Thank you. Your words are very encouraging. We will no doubt get a good idea of what is on Archbishop Hepworth's agenda on February 11 since he will be attending!

            I agree that it would be helpful to have Both Japanese and English on our site, and the latest update includes a small quote which does have both. It would help if we had someone who would be able and willing to render the Japanese articles into English. The web guy's Japanese ability isn't high enough for the task of translating entire articles although he did translate the tiny quote mentioned above (and he has gotten into the strange position of referring to himself in the third person in this post).

            At least one other person on this forum is quite capable, but I also know that his hands are quite full, so I won't even ask!

            1. Update: The person I mentioned took time from a very busy schedule to translate the home page of the web site (Thanks!). I also fixed one other page (monthly column) so English readers would be able to quickly find the English PDF version of that article (which happened to be a letter by Archbishop Hepworth). So we are making progress!

            2. Russ,

              You wrote: Thank you. Your words are very encouraging. We will no doubt get a good idea of what is on Archbishop Hepworth's agenda on February 11 since he will be attending!

              Yes I saw the mention of the meeting in his pastoral communication of 30 November 2010. And actually, if you have about a dozen or more house chapels that are willing to enter an ordinariate, an ordinariate for Japan may well be an option.

              You wrote: The person I mentioned took time from a very busy schedule to translate the home page of the web site (Thanks!).

              I understand busy schedules as much as anybody. That understanding comes from personal experience!

              Your work is much appreciated!


  2. It would appear that Fr. Kato has never had any connection with the Nippon Seikokai, the conventional Anglican/Episcopal Church in Japan. Just as well for him, as the NSKK has long since slipped its lines and drifted far from its mooring. I used to be priest of the Chubu (Mid-Japan) Diocese, the stalwart guardian of the episcopacy during the dark days of WWII, and yet the first to attempt to ordain a woman priest before the turn of the millennium.

    There is a tiny group of Anglicans who left the NSKK over this issue and are now poised to come into unity with Rome. Bp. Raphael Kajiwara, longtime diocesan of the Anglo-Catholic Diocese of Yokohama (NSKK) and now retired and suffragan of the NKSKK is their leader. It would be wonderful if Fr. Kato got to know them, so on the off chance that he is following this weblog, this greeting:


    当然メールをする無礼を御許し下さい。私は日本聖公会出身の司祭ロレンス ウイーラーと申します。現在はホノルル聖十字教会で牧会しております。


    司祭 ローレンスウイーラー

    Fr. Kato,

    Please excuse the impropriety of this sudden electronic message. I am Fr. Lawrence Wheeler, originally from the Anglican Church in Japan, and now pastor of Holy Cross Church in Honolulu. I am delighted to learn that you are to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood.

    Father, are you aware that there is a tiny group in Japan called the Nippon Kirisuto Seikokai? (They left the Nippon Seikokai over the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood.) They are soon to come under the umbrella of the Catholic Church. This is an historical event that makes my heart race. I have attempted to contact you here, thinking that, if they were to come to know you, they would be greatly encouraged. If you will, please let me know what you think.

    May the grace of the Lord be with you,
    Fr. Lawrence B. Wheeler

  3. I am not Japanese or Anglican or British — I am an American Catholic — but I feel moved to comment here because I find this all so astonishing (in a good way). This is a wonderful step toward Christian unity. We all have many political, cultural, and temporal biases that, in many cases, we don't even know are there. It is easiest to stay where one is, problems and all. All these steps toward a transcendent unity astonish me. I know there are many "real world" things to work out and many difficulties. But look what's happening!!!! It's amazing.

  4. I am an American convert lay person in the Saitama diocese (a ways south of Gunma, in Saitama City), and I was thrilled to see this news here. It was announced after Mass a couple of weeks ago, but I hadn't heard the details. A very warm welcome to Fr. Kato and his wife! Maybe we'll run into each other some day!

  5. Fr Kato has indeed been ordained as Catholic priest on 11th February at Maebashi Catholic Church in Gunma Prefecture. There are photos from his ordination on Saitama Diocesan website (in Japanese) at http://saitama-kyoku.net/j/ and click on the text after the date: 2011.02.12
    I was a friend of Fr Kato while he lived in England.

  6. Further to the news of his ordination, Fr Kato was incardinated into the Catholic Diocese of Saitama and has been apoointed supply priest for Gunma Central and North Block (pastoral area), and is living in Akatsuki-no-mura.
    I have emailed Fr Kato about this site.

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