Fr Peter McGrath CP –
As you may well know, Peter passed away, Saturday, March 3rd at 11.25am at the War Veterans’ Home, Tobruk Unit.
Peter was 78 years old on his last birthday. Peter was 58 years professed and 53 years ordained.
Peter’s passing was very gentle. For the last few weeks as Peter became visibly weaker, he was on a morphine pump, which alleviated some of his agitation, and added to his peacefulness.
Friday evening Peter was still talking to visitors and on Saturday morning was aware of those present. No one was expecting this to be the time the Lord would take Pater home.
His sister Anne had come for her daily visit and Sr Leonie rsm had sat with Peter through the night. Marion Stewart had come to spend time with Peter. Usually a candle was lit, and soft music playing in the background. Sr Leonie and Anne went to have a coffee at the Home’s café, Marion sat with Peter reading from a book by Fr Joe Girzone. Peter loved his writing. This book was “A Portrait of Jesus”. Marion had come to a chapter called “New Life, New Hope”. “This is you, Peter”, she said to him and began to read. Peter closed his eyes, and Marion noticed Peter had fallen asleep. In fact, he had gone to join his parents, Joe and Dorothy, his younger sister Helen, our Passionist brothers and so many more in Heaven.
When I reached Tobruk Anne’s children, Louise and Daniel, Daniel’s Rebecca, Pat Clarke, Chris Lee and Grace Owen had also arrived. I had prayed the Sacrament of the Sick with Peter, and given him absolution a few days ago. Together we prayed the Prayers for the Deceased with and for Peter. Over these last months, especially when Peter was down, those with him would pray together and anoint him with a fearfully fragrant oil. It was not canonically Sacramental, but it was certainly sacramental. So, each of us anointed Peter, and then also anointed him for some of his closest friends and others who had cared for him especially over these last months of his life.
And so, our brother, Peter, returned to the Lord.
Many messages of condolence have already begun to come, -from our Superior General Joachim, from Provincials of other Provinces, from Family Group Directors and Coordinators, from former Passionists, and friends and parishioners.
A Mass will be celebrated at St Brigid’s Church Marrickville on Wednesday evening, March 7th, at 7.00pm
A Mass will be celebrated at St Anthony in the Field’s Church, Myoora Rd, Terry Hills on March 8th at 10.30 am.
There will be refreshments after the mass, and then Peter’s body will be taken for burial at Mona Vale, as Peter requested. The burial will be only the Passionists and peter’s immediate family and closest friends.
May he rest in peace
Tom McDonough CP
The video of the full mass is now on YouTube at:
HOMILY – VIGIL FOR PETER McGRATH, C.P.
We could enter into this reflection on that day in February, 1957, sixty-one years ago, when Peter and I arrived at St. Ives to begin our journey with the Passionists. Peter, straight out of school and seventeen and a half, and me, the same, at sixteen going on seventeen. Some of those who travelled the course with us at that time, were Peter Gaughan, JustinIves, Brian O’Neill, Tony McGovern, Peter Williams, Mark Wells, and about 15 others!
Joe, Dot Helen and Anne
Of course, Peter’s story before that belonged with Joe and Dot, Helen and Anne. And Anne you were so very faithful and loving to you brother in his last sickness. As I remember, Peter was a quite pious lad from Blacktown, very intent on living out his calling to the Passionists.
But let’s leap from that day until the present moment, which is no less real, and even more tangible and actual, as are the reality of our relationships even though Peter has left us. That same lad from Blacktown is now completely at peace, no more tears, no more striving, but enjoying the fulfilment of everything we all yearn for here on this earth. Though over the last couple of years, through Peter’s sickness, we were preparing for the inevitable day when the Lord would call him, my experience was that everything changed with the knowledge that Peter had actually gone to God and had fought the good fight. This is our faith, and it is as real to us our gathering here, with Peter, is real. This reality somehow changed my memories of my journey of 61 years with Peter. Peter is now, fully, the person whom our creative God meant him to be. We rejoice with him.
Looking back to the Past
We can give thanks for every gift that Peter used to serve others: from his gregariousness, his ability to communicate, his insights and sharp intellect, and his great compassion.
A creation of God
The image of the potter and the clay come to my mind. And “Christ’s work of art” Paul talks about in Ephesians. And we can think, very obviously, of the great achievement of the Passionist Family Groups. We all know the story of those small beginnings at Terrey Hills and the wonderful way that the genius of Peter’s ideas enriched so many thousands of lives over the years. And we think of all the people who also took part in that journey, from the very beginning. That spark that caught alight in 1984, brought about a great fire of love in so many lives. There are also the unknown ways that Peter touched others’ lives in so many small ways, and perhaps which will remain unknown to us, until we tooare in the Father’s house. Those otherwise unknown, but precious lives. These are all parts of the creative material that the Potter used. And there was also, as there is with all of us, the ‘shadow side’ of ourselves. We could not be faithful to Pete, not to recognise that the journey for Peter at times, was so difficult in many ways, and some would know more of that inner journey than I do. But this too is how God shaped Peter. That is why everything is changed now: no more tears, no more longing, no more searching, no more yearning – the shroud has been liftedfrom Peter, as Isaiah declares. We are all works of art in Christ. (Eph.2, 10) We Passionists remember the energy he brought as Provincial and how Peter is embedded in our own story.
So, I bring all the great memories of laughter and enjoyment and the sharing of lives and of faith. And also, the struggles – and those, for a sedate Adelaide lad like myself, occasions of squirming when out with Peter for a meal, and his communicating with the Manager, the Maitre D’, the sous chef, the cleaner and most of the other patrons at the restaurant. Or the Christmas times with Dot, Anne and Vince, Louise, Peter and Dan, when Dot would give her own “Queen’s message” for that year. Great memories. Peter had a special connection with my own family and there were many memories of years gone by when there was plenty of laughter and family enjoyment. Mum was always quite taken with this ‘larrikin’ from Sydney!
Strong and faithful friendships: sign of Grace
But, at the end of the journey, what stands out most to me – even though over a few decades our paths didn’t cross that much – is the legacy of faithful friendship that Peter leaves behind. The people involved, like Barbara Lunnon and Mary Ingham, and hundreds of other Family Group Leaders, those friendships that began from the very beginnings of the story of Peter and St. Anthony in the Fields and remain strong to this day. To leave that legacy of firm, strong and loving friendships is indeed a ‘sign’ of the work of Jesus’ Spirit in Peter’s life. I remember when my father died and we were all gathered around Dad’s bed, our eldest sister, Marie, asked Dad to forgive us if we had ever hurt him, and for him to be assured that if there were any regrets he had as a father, that they no longer exist. At this moment, forgiveness, which is at the very heart of the life of God, reigns supreme, in our relationships with Peter.
Peter you have certainly fought the good fight, and we not only give thanks, even with our tears, but rejoice with you now that you have that peace of heart that you yearned for. Won’t it be extraordinary and wonderful to share that with you one day?