Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Recalling Fr. W. Allan Peterkin, SJ - Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot

May 23, 1924- July 6, 2012

Jesuit Father Allan W. Allan Peterkin died on July 6, 2012 at René Goupil House (Jesuit Infirmary), Pickering, Ontario; he was in his 89th year, 67th year as a member of the Society of Jesus and 54th as a priest.

Born in Regina on May 23, 1924, he entered the Jesuits in English Canada on September 7, 1945 after graduating from St. Paul's College High School in Winnipeg and having served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Ordained a priest on June 21, 1959, Father Peterkin ministered principally as a chaplain and a counselor. His apostolate of nearly fifty years was exercised in diverse cities: Regina; Guelph (Loyola House); Toronto and Pickering (Manresa). He was also the pastor and chaplain in Bath near Kingston, ON.

Many admired his pastoral zeal and openness to new ideas; even after he moved to the Jesuit infirmary at Pickering in 2008, the result of a fractured hip, he still continued his extensive counseling and retreat ministry.

Father Allan will be missed by his family: Dr. Edith Peterkin, Sr. Mildred Peterkin, rscj, and Dr. John (Esme) Peterkin, and by his Jesuit family and many friends.

In keeping with an often-stated wish, his body has been donated to science at the Division of Anatomy at the University of Toronto.

A Memorial Mass will take place today, July 11 at 11 o'clock in the St. Ignatius Chapel, Manresa: Jesuit Spiritual Renewal Centre, Liverpool Road North, Pickering, ON. Burial of cremated remains will take place at a later date in the Jesuit Cemetery - Guelph, ON. In memory of Father Peterkin, donations may be made to the Jesuit Development Office, 43 Queen's Park Crescent East, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C3.

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In my first year as a Jesuit novice, Father Allan took his final vows in the Society of Jesus at Ignatius College, Guelph, where he was posted as a director of the Spiritual Exercises.

Though most of us had little knowledge of him, we were pressed into a customary toast to the vovent that was part spoof, part admiration. Given the fact that Father Allan has always enjoyed the reputation of being a "character" (the details of which were shared with us young men by our seniors), we had little trouble coming up with hilarious songs and skits for the occasion, which delighted him no end.

Later, both of us lived in a residence for theological students and priests involved in pastoral ministry in downtown Toronto.  There he endeared himself to his juniors, who were studying for the priesthood.  At an exchange of memories of him around the celebration of the Memorial Mass there will be no lack of tales to be recounted.  He will be missed. 

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From American Catholic's Saint of the Day for July 11:

It is unfortunate that no contemporary biography was written of a man who has exercised the greatest influence on monasticism in the West. Benedict is well recognized in the later Dialogues of St. Gregory, but these are sketches to illustrate miraculous elements of his career.

Benedict was born into a distinguished family in central Italy, studied at Rome and early in life was drawn to the monastic life. At first he became a hermit, leaving a depressing world—pagan armies on the march, the Church torn by schism, people suffering from war, morality at a low ebb.

He soon realized that he could not live a hidden life in a small town any better than in a large city, so he withdrew to a cave high in the mountains for three years. Some monks chose him as their leader for a while, but found his strictness not to their taste. Still, the shift from hermit to community life had begun for him. He had an idea of gathering various families of monks into one “Grand Monastery” to give them the benefit of unity, fraternity, permanent worship in one house. Finally he began to build what was to become one of the most famous monasteries in the world—Monte Cassino, commanding three narrow valleys running toward the mountains north of Naples.

The Rule that gradually developed prescribed a life of liturgical prayer, study, manual labor and living together in community under a common father (abbot). Benedictine asceticism is known for its moderation, and Benedictine charity has always shown concern for the people in the surrounding countryside. In the course of the Middle Ages, all monasticism in the West was gradually brought under the Rule of St. Benedict.

Today the Benedictine family is represented by two branches: the Benedictine Federation and the Cistercians.

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The Church has been blessed through Benedictine devotion to the liturgy, not only in its actual celebration with rich and proper ceremony in the great abbeys, but also through the scholarly studies of many of its members. Liturgy is sometimes confused with guitars or choirs, Latin or Bach. We should be grateful to those who both preserve and adapt the genuine tradition of worship in the Church.

“Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of man is manifested by signs perceptible to the senses...; in the liturgy full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members.

"From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his Body the Church, is a sacred action, surpassing all others” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 7).
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O God, who made the Abbot Saint Benedict an outstanding master in the school of divine service, grant, we pray, that, putting nothing before love of you, we may hasten with a loving heart in the way of your commands. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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