Father Louis Tou, founding pastor of Our Lady of China Pastoral Mission, dies
Feb 12, 2020
Father Louis Aloysius Tou, the founding pastor of the Our Lady of China Pastoral Mission in the Archdiocese of Washington, died on Feb. 3 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was 89.
Washington Auxiliary Bishop Michael Fisher will be the principal celebrant at a Memorial Mass for Father Tou at St. Mary’s Church in Rockville on Feb. 15 at 10:30 a.m., with a reception to follow in the parish hall. Father Tou’s Funeral Mass was celebrated on Feb. 7 at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg. The priest, who retired in 1997, had resided at the Cardinal O’Boyle Residence for priests from 2003 until the fall of 2019, when he moved to Fredericksburg to be with family.
Father Tou, a native of the Honan Province of China, was born in 1930. In a 2016 Catholic Standard interview marking the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, he noted that his parents were poor and hardworking people and devout Catholics. His father was a railroad worker and his mother was a housewife.
“We are five generations of Catholics. They (my parents) were very faithful Catholics. The Church was almost their life. The parish was almost their second home,” he said.
The priest said that when he was 4 years old, he became very sick, and his mother thought he was dying. She had their parish priest anoint him, and she took the little boy to church and knelt down before a statue of the Blessed Mother and prayed that if he got well, she would offer him up to the Church.
That night, he asked for water, after not being able to swallow anything for a few days, and then he began to recover. Father Tou said when his mother later told him that story, he decided to go to a minor seminary, because “I wanted to keep my mother’s promise.”
By 1949, the turmoil involving the Communist revolution caused the seminarian to leave China, and he continued his studies in Avila, Spain. He later earned a licentiate in sacred theology in Rome, where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1956.
“We Chinese newly ordained priests did not know where to go after ordination… My own bishop was in exile in the United States,” the priest said. “He asked me to come here.”
Father Tou came to Washington and studied at The Catholic University of America, where he later earned a doctorate in guidance and counseling.
His pastoral experience over the years included serving as a bishop’s secretary and parish priest in Taiwan, as a parochial vicar at two Maryland parishes, at Christ the King in Silver Spring and at St. Jerome in Hyattsville, as a counselor and psychology teacher at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School which was then in Wheaton, Maryland, and as a chaplain at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring.
Dorothy Martin, who then worked in admissions at Good Counsel, said she admired the priest’s “faith in God – it showed in everything he did.” She remembered that Father Tou “always had a smile,” and he would often play in the faculty versus students basketball game and “was quite a basketball player.”
In 1981, Father Tou was incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. The year earlier, he had been appointed as chaplain to the archdiocese’s Chinese Catholic mission, and then in 1982, he was named as the founding pastor of the Our Lady of China Pastoral Mission.
“I enjoyed it, because I saw there was a necessity for Chinese families and students in this area to have a Chinese mission,” he said. “I helped give them a home, because they all are immigrants, so a church would be their home. Then I tried to teach them about Jesus, about the Gospel message… I thought from the beginning, it was important to have a place for (Chinese) Catholics to pray, (and) to have a priest they can call on for the sacraments.”
Father Tou served as the pastor of Our Lady of China Pastoral Mission from 1982-1991, when he was named as a senior priest, and he continued serving that community until his 1997 retirement. During his years serving the mission, he helped establish weekly Masses for the Chinese Catholic community in Mandarin at St. Mary’s Church in Rockville, and in Cantonese at St. Mary, Mother of God Church in Washington, D.C.
The members of the Our Lady of China Pastoral Mission were “very faithful. The community grew. They had a home,” he said in the Catholic Standard interview.
Carolyn Ng, a coordinator for catechesis and faith formation at Our Lady of China, said, “Father Tou had been a pastor, mentor and friend to many parishioners, student priests and me. He also took care of his extended family members while working full time at the Holy Cross Hospital and serving us Sunday Mass.”
She noted that the priest chose as his motto, “For the love of Christ impels us." (2 Corinthians 5:14)
Father Tou said a sadness in his life was that he was never able to serve a single day as a priest in his home diocese in China, but he added that as he studied and served in different cities and countries, he never felt like he was in exile. “Whenever I arrived, I always had the Church as my home,” he said.
When Father Tou lived at the Cardinal O’Boyle Residence, he had a framed picture of Our Lady of China displayed on the wall of his room, signed with the names of the parishioners of that pastoral mission where he served as founding pastor, which they presented to him on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
The Hail Mary written in Chinese was also framed on his wall, and the priest said he felt that the Church and the Blessed Mother had taken him by the hand and guided him through his six decades as a priest, as he kept the promise made by his mother years earlier when she prayed that her seriously ill young son would live.
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