He is a soft-spoken native of New Zealand and priest of the Legion of Christ. His subtle accent and gentle spirit are the perfect combo for a man who spends a lot of time greeting people on the street.
You could say that Fr Peter is a mission priest through and though. He is not a priest who wants to sit around in a parish rectory and wait for people to come. He’s not the “maintenance-church” type at all. He is what Pope Francis would like to see, a shepherd out in the streets with the sheep.
When asked why he started doing this, he said: “I saw the need to go out to the people. Just sitting in the parish and waiting for the people to come just wasn’t happening. So many are too hurt, too confused or too busy. Pope Francis says the world is like a battle-field hospital. I just assumed we’d need to go out and bring the wounded home. They needed someone to help them. So, we went out!”
While Pope Francis may have been a big inspiration for Fr Peter, it seems he was also inspired in 2014 by the encouragement of Bishop Daniel O’Connell, auxiliary in LA, who at the time was just pastor of St. Michael the Archangel parish. What started at St. Michael the Archangel on Manchester Ave then we went to St. Frances parish on Imperial Highway and includes St. Odilia in South Central and now Skid Row. Members of these parishes accompany Fr Peter with the cross.
According to Fr Peter, the cross of Jesus is its own catechesis. “By taking the cross to the streets, we are giving people a direct experience of the love of Jesus from the cross, people are coming closer to this sign of salvation. That’s the message they need. Hope and salvation… and most importantly, that they are worthy of being loved.”
When out on the streets with a cross over his shoulder, Fr Peter says: “I see my own heart. Somehow, being with the people on the streets opens my heart; I feel strangely ‘alive’. The Gospel comes to life all around me. Many times I am reduced to nothing, to ashes, to the beginning. I want to cry out and solve all the problems around me small and big. I want everyone to have a home and food and clothing. I don’t want to see what I see.”
Part of the reason Fr Peter keeps going out multiple times each month, accompanied by now dozens of different people, is the gift of feeling Christ come alive as a missionary. Many Catholics need this awakening. For Fr Peter, his way of forming apostles is to give them this experience. It helps people to no longer be passive in the pews, but on fire for Jesus. Fr Peter’s gentle demeanor and priestly heart comes out when he says “the ministry is like a highway of love, the Sacred Heart of Jesus pours his love out through our ministry. I love the experience of being a bridge for the love of Jesus”
Fr Peter is an avid social media poster. His facebook feed is full of videos and heart-warming messages from the streets of LA. He doesn’t really know how many people are sharing and viewing his posts. Like much in Fr Peter’s life, that’s up to the Holy Spirit! “I post, and leave the rest to God” he simply says.
For more information:
– Find Fr Peter’s Facebook here:
– More info on Mission Youth Missions here.