Missionhurst Fr. John Peters dies at 84

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Missionhurst Father John B. Peters, who lived his vocation in service around the world, died April 16 of natural causes at the Missionhurst house in Arlington. He was 84 years old. This August would have marked his 60th year as a priest.

A funeral Mass was offered by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde April 26 at St. Agnes Church in Arlington.

Father Peters knew eight languages, and after retiring to Missionhurst in Arlington in 2005, he celebrated Mass in Spanish at parishes throughout the diocese and in Portuguese at Sacred Heart Church in Manassas, according to Missionhurst Father Joseph Giordano, rector and treasurer at Missionhurst.

He enabled local Portuguese-speaking Brazilians to come together as a community of faith bound by a shared culture, Father Giordano said. "He was very devoted to (the Brazilians) and they were very devoted to him."

Father Peters was born Jan. 1, 1929, in Belgium to Jan and Anna Maria Peters. He entered the Missionhurst Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1947, pronounced his first vows Sept. 8, 1948, and was ordained a priest Aug. 2, 1953, in Scheut, Brussels.

In 1954, Father Peters was sent on his first mission assignment in the United States, where he served as pastor of St. John Church in Strawn, Texas. He served as parochial vicar of St. John Berchmans Church in San Antonio, 1956-63, and as pastor of St. Stephen Church in San Antonio, 1963-66. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1960 in San Antonio.

Father Peters came to the East Coast in September 1966, when he was assigned as rector of the Missionhurst Seminary in Washington.

Missionhurst Father David Curran got to know Father Peters well during his time in Washington. "He was a very kind person, very sensitive to other people's feelings, and was a great listener," said Father Curran. "And he had a great love for the church, especially the liturgy."

He also gave good spiritual advice, Father Curran said.

Father Peters served as rector until June 1967 when he was elected as a council member of the general government of his congregation in Rome. He served as a member of the general government until May 1974, when he was assigned to Brazil as pastor of Our Lady of Remedies Church in Paraty, State of Rio de Janeiro, where he served for the next 20 years.

In 1994, Father Peters was reassigned to Rome where he served as rector of Missionhurst's International College.

He returned to Brazil in June 1998 and served as pastor of St. Ann Church in Itacuruçá for the next seven years until returning to the United States in May 2005, when he retired at Missionhurst.

Father Peters slowed down a bit as he got older, said Father Curran, but right up to the end he ministered to the Brazilian community and weekly served the needy at a soup kitchen in Washington.

Contributions in Father Peter's name may be made to the Missionhurst Retirement Fund, 4651 N. 25th St., Arlington, VA 22207

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013