Brave Fr. Benedict
Though thanking God for the challenge of his disability, Fr Benedict Peters has admitted to wanting to be healed and to walk again. In the meantime, he’s more than willing to celebrate the Eucharist from his wheelchair.
Fr Peters, who has been unable to walk for the past five years following surgery, thanked God last Tuesday for being able to celebrate Mass and for giving him “life, the strength and the courage to be here”.
The occasion was his silver anniversary of priestly ordination. At a Mass of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of Fatima Church, Curepe, one of his former parishes, “Fr Ben”, 51, thanked everyone for their love and support as he continued his journey with God in his ministry of “intimacy, stillness and quiet”. But at the same time, he told Vicar for Clergy Fr Clyde Harvey – and an approving congregation – that he wanted to do more. “I’m ready to tackle a Saturday or Sunday evening Mass in a parish,” he declared, adding: “I need your prayers to help me through each day.”
Among the concelebrating priests was San Rafael parish priest Fr Ian Taylor; Frs Peters, Taylor and Michael Moses were ordained June 19, 1988 by Archbishop Anthony Pantin at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Fr Taylor had his Mass of Thanksgiving the following day, Labour Day, at San Rafael church.
Of Fr Moses, who died March 12, 2008, Fr Peters remarked, “He’s looking down at us smiling from heaven.”
As Grace Music Ministry sang “I give myself away”, Frs Taylor, Reginald Hezekiah and Michael Upson, the homilist, laid hands on Fr Peters and prayed for healing.
On another visit to Trinidad, he noticed Fr Peters walking with a limp, the result of a fall. Surgery five years ago to correct the limp left him unable to walk. “But God was working powerfully,” remarked Fr Upson, for “as difficult as life appears to be, sometimes you don’t realise how God is using us…”
Fr Upson spoke of developing one’s interior life, about meeting God “face to face to discover who we really are”. He noted that not many people developed this “intimate relationship with Christ” because they were “too busy to go there, where it is dark and lonely”. He said he didn’t know what Fr Peters was going through in his disability, but Fr Peters has helped teach him what priesthood was about.
Fr Upson explained that being a priest meant being active and available to people: “It’s draining but fulfilling.” He noted that Fr Peters’ priestly life has changed: he now had to be still while he hoped for healing.
Noting the large turnout, Fr Upson said to Fr Peters, “God is working through you; you’ve touched the lives of many people. Your ministry has changed, but your ministry is powerful because of your persistence…. We may be brought down low, only to see how high God can raise us up.”
Fr Upson thanked all who continued to support Fr Peters: “Saying thank you would not be enough.” He said all clergy needed the support of the faithful, to be thanked for their ministry, and to know that they were loved since they were “human, weak, fallible, and make mistakes”.
Fr Upson addressed Fr Peters directly as he concluded his homily: “Your ministry has changed for a while. Continue to love, continue being priest, continue being the person we know and love but never stop growing in interior life because you can lead us to a place we prefer not to go.”
The readings were done by Fr Peters’ brother Alvin and Umilta Yuille Mitchell; Rev Dennis Bryan proclaimed the gospel. The Prayers of Intercession were done by persons from parishes in which Fr Peters has served. Fr Peters, meanwhile, prayed for his deceased parents, Donald and Augusta; for Frs Vincent Compton and Henry Charles, Archbishop Anthony Pantin and Fr Arthur Lai Fook, whom he knew from Lourdes House and whom he admired for his humility.
Fr Peters later conducted the Eucharistic rite, utilising a low table placed in front of the altar.
Seated in the front pews were Fr Peters’ younger siblings Anthony, Frances, Richard, Myrna and Myrnelle.
Just before Fr Peters addressed the gathering, Vicar General Msgr Robert Llanos read out a letter from Archbishop Joseph Harris – who was abroad, and Fr Harvey made some brief remarks.
Fr Harvey began by saying “Ben can be stubborn like hell” but that his stubbornness was “a source of strength in difficult circumstances” and a source of inspiration for him. Fr Harvey praised the many caregivers who “walked with Ben” and “stuck by him through thick and thin….The archdiocese owes them a deep deep debt of gratitude”. He also thanked the doctors who care for Fr Peters and other clergy.
Archbishop Harris congratulated Fr Peters and thanked him for “the ministry which you perform from bed and wheelchair. We thank you for the daily prayers and the offering of the pain, physical and psychological, which you offer each day for us”.
The archbishop’s letter ended, “Be assured of our prayers for you but be assured much more of the tremendous love which God has for you, his faithful servant, and may Mary, Mother of God, your mother and our mother, accompany you always.”