School founder, leader in Catholic communications dies in Japan

Father Francis Bures, 1927-2010

Bures,_Fr_Francis_for_webWisconsin native Father Francis Bures, a Divine Word Missionary who spent more than 50 years in Japan, died on August 18 in Nagoya. Father Bures, 83, simultaneously fulfilled many roles while building lasting establishments, such as schools and parishes.

Born in Antigo, Wis., Francis Bures was the eldest of Joseph and Theresa (Marciniak) Bures’s nine children. As a teenager, he attended Divine Word Seminary in East Troy, Wis. Then, he pursued his theological studied at St. Mary’s Seminary at Techny, Ill. He professed vows as a Divine Word Missionary in 1946 and was ordained to the priesthood in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in 1953.

After a year at St. Nicholas in St. Louis, Mo., Father Bures began his first foreign mission assignment in Japan, where Christians comprise 2 percent of the population. He left Techny on Oct. 3, 1954, sailed from Seattle on the S.S. Washington Mail, and arrived in Yokohama Harbor on Oct. 22—less than ten years after the end of World War II.

The young priest spent his first two years studying the Japanese language and pastorally serving the men and women of FEAMCOM, an American Air Force base at Tachikawa near Tokyo.

After mastering conversational Japanese, Father Bures taught English at Nanzan University in Nagoya for three years and at Nanzan Boys’ High School in Nagasaki for another three years.

From 1963 to 1983, he served as an assistant to Bishop John Shojiro Ito of the Niigate Diocese. During that time, Father Bures was instrumental in helping to build the diocese—one church and one convert at a time. His correspondence to family and friends in the United States often focused on the individuals who sought his instruction in the Catholic faith. He frequently ended those letters by asking the recipients to "please pray that they receive the gift of faith."

Father Bures also was a leader in the Good Shepherd Movement, a Catholic social communications project that produced and distributed radio and television programs about the faith. At its height, the television programs had 1.5 million viewers, and the radio programs reached ten percent of the Japanese market.

To support the Good Shepherd Movement and to foster education about the faith, Father Bures founded a religious bookstore and an English-conversation and French-language school in Niigate. The revenues of the store and school helped to financially support the Good Shepherd Movement. Demand for admittance to the school was high. During the first three years, the school grew from five English-language classes to 40. Father Bures also built a kindergarten in Mitsuke, Japan.

He made the most of natural opportunities to tell people about Christ—Christmas parties at the English school, meetings with non-Christian couples who wanted to get married in his church, and being available to answer the questions of curious mothers at the kindergarten that he managed.

From 1983 to 2006, he served as a parish priest in Nagaura, Zendana, Gotanjo and Mizunami. In addition, he was chaplain to the Dominican Sisters in Seto and spiritual director for the Nagoya curia of the Legion of Mary. He taught English at Holy Spirit Junior College in Seto and English Bible studies at Nanzan Girls’ High School.

Father Bures passed away at Holy Spirit Hospice in Nagoya after a long struggle with cancer. His wake and funeral were held in Nagoya. Family and friends celebrated his memorial Mass at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Neva, Wis., on Aug. 28.

Memorial donations may be sent to the Mission Center, Divine Word Missionaries, 1835 Waukegan Rd., P.O. Box 6099, Techny, IL 60082-6099.

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