- June 1, 1981
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Biographical / Historical
Father Neal Henry Lawrence (January 22 1908 - November 3, 2004) was a naval officer, diplomat, monk, scholar, and poet born in Clarksville, Tennessee. He received his B.A. in English from Harvard College in 1929. He then became an Executive at the Lever Brothers Company. After 15 years with them, he joined the Navy in 1943 and then attended the Military Government School at Columbia University. With the Marines, he participated in the siege of Okinawa, bringing him to Japan. During the occupation, he became the Director of the Department of Economic Affairs for the General Headquarters. Lawrence left Japan in August 1946 to get his master’s in Public Law and Government from Columbia in 1947. Soon after, he began working for the State Department and was sent to Tokyo with the Diplomatic Section under the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers until 1949. He then joined the Foreign Service Section of U.S. Information Service until 1951. During his work in diplomacy, he became interested in becoming a Benedict and attended St. Johns Abbey in 1954 to study, becoming a Benedictine monk in 1955. In 1960, he was ordained and returned to Japan for a mission. While there, he resided as the Associate Pastor of St. Anselm's Parish from 1966 to 1999 and taught at various educational institutions. Father Lawrence is regarded as a pioneer in popularizing Tanka poetry in English. He remained in Japan until his passing at the age of 96, but his legacy lives on. In 1993, the Japanese government awarded him an Order of the Rising Sun for his contributions.