Father Luke L. Chow, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who was born in China, died June 18 at age 90.
Father Chow, the son of the late Paul and the late Margaret (Liang) Chow, was born in 1926 in Tsining (Jining), near the birthplace of Confucius.
According to a short memoir cited by Father Thomas Dunleavy who preached the homily at Father Chow’s funeral, his family descends from the emperors of the Chou (Zhou) Dynasty, 1142-247 B.C. They were converted to Catholicism by St. Joseph Freinademetz, (1852-1908, canonized in 2003), a Society of the Divine Word missionary to China to whom Father Chow’s grandfather became secretary.
The Catholicity of Father Chow’s parents is evidenced by the names they gave their seven children: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Theresa and Michael. His father was also dean of the local SVD seminary until the communist takeover.
Father Chow entered the minor seminary at age 13, but with the coming of the communists the seminary moved to several locations before closing and he continued his studies in the Philippines. He was ordained by Bishop Carl Weber, SVD, in 1954.
Back in China his parents had their home and property seized by the Communist regime and they were both imprisoned.
Father Chow’s father served 11 years in a labor camp, according to the memoir. After his mother served two years, one night she received a vision of the Blessed Mother who told her she would be released the next day, and in fact she was.
Technically ordained for the Diocese of Yenchow in China, it was impossible for Father Chow to return home. He served in various capacities in the Philippines as a pastor, teacher and school principal.
In 1974, fearing that communism was gaining an ascendency in the Philippines, he immigrated to America, settling in Philadelphia, where he became incardinated in 1977. He also became a U.S. citizen in 1979.
Among his various Archdiocese of Philadelphia assignments before his 2001 retirement were parochial vicar at Visitation B.V.M., Philadelphia; Blessed Virgin Mary, Darby; St. Bridget, Philadelphia; St. Louis, Yeadon and St. Michael the Archangel, Levittown.
He also served as coordinator for the Chinese Apostolate and chaplain at Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Chapel, 1989-1992.
Father Dunleavy knew Father Chow best from letters back and forth over a period of years. “His desire to be a priest was as strong when he died as it was when he entered the seminary,” he said.
Father Chow’s funeral Mass was celebrated by Bishop John McIntyre on June 23 at St. Francis Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare. Concelebrants included Father Dunleavy and Father Edward Kennedy.
Interment was at Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon.