Peter was born the day fighting ended in Europe in the Second World War, which is perhaps why later he developed a great interest in films and television series about World War I and II.
As a child he lived at Mile End and attended Star of the Sea Primary School. His secondary education began at St Ignatius’ College but he completed his final two years as a boarder at Rostrevor College after his grandmother became ill and was cared for by his parents in their home. He was sent to boarding school to ensure his studies weren’t affected.
The seed of his vocation to the priesthood was sown when Peter became critically ill with peritonitis and glandular fever at the age of 10.
He received the anointment of the sick and told himself that if he survived he’d consider becoming a priest.
True to his word, Peter joined St Francis Xavier Seminary and was part of the biggest ordination class on September 4 1971. Three of the group of 12, Frs Richard Morris, Allan Winter and John Vildzius, attended his funeral. Another classmate, Bishop Gerry Holohan from Bunbury, sent an apology. Fellow classmates Mick and Frank McInerney, Jerry Baldock and Joe Caruana kept in touch with Peter. Every year they would get together to mark the ordination, and Peter would always go.
His first appointment was as assistant priest to Mgr Vincent Tiggeman at Hectorville parish, followed by five years at Brighton under Fr Gavin Kennare and
Fr Anthony Kain.
Pastoral associate Maureen O’Shaunessy told Peter to ‘be yourself’ and he followed that advice in his priestly ministry, not comparing himself with any others.
After time at Semaphore, Millicent, Tranmere and the Adelaide Cathedral, he began a long career in the country, including six years as parish priest at Pinnaroo, four years at Yorketown and 10 years at Bordertown.
Subsequent appointments to Naracoorte and Penola meant he served in every parish in the South East over a period of 21 years, excluding Mount Gambier where he retired in 2018. He also had an enjoyable year on sabbatical in San Francisco in 2008, returning a few weeks early after his mother died.
In an interview with The Southern Cross Peter said he liked “the quietness and lack of traffic” in the country and it was his choice to stay there.
“I love being with the people, helping them as much as possible,” he added.
After his retirement, Peter continued to celebrate weekday and Sunday Masses, freeing up the then parish priest Fr Dean Marin to celebrate Sunday Mass to smaller communities at Port MacDonnell and Beachport.
In 2021 the parish celebrated Mass in St Paul’s Church for the 50th anniversary of Peter’s priestly ordination and enjoyed a wonderful meal afterwards. Many people came from all over the South East to honour him and thank God for his priestly ministry.
Peter returned to Adelaide after Easter last year to live at Villa Murphy, but within a very short time was in Calvary Hospital in Adelaide and was diagnosed with cancer.
Within a few weeks the doctors ceased treatment and he was cared for at Calvary Flora McDonald.
At his funeral Mass, Fr Marin repeated the words he spoke to Peter before his death, that he was ‘a faithful and wonderful committed priest all his life’.
He expressed his gratitude for Peter’s help in Mount Gambier and Millicent and said the people of the South East would never forget him.Jump to next article