Jesuit Priest, Fr Peter Green died in Sydney on Tuesday, 4 July, 2006 at the age of 87.
Fr Green came to the Townsville Diocese in 1982 to provide Adult Faith Education courses and remained in ministry there until he retired to Sydney in October, 2003.
During the 21 years that he ministered in the diocese, Fr Green was based at the parishes of the Cathedral, Mundingburra and finally at Holy Family in Gulliver.
He promoted the Journey Scripture course throughout the diocese and was involved in promoting the Foundations of Theology course through the Catholic Education Office.
He was passionate about ecumenism, the second Vatican Council and Scripture studies and was prepared to offer courses in these areas for anyone interested.
Fr Green was born in Launceston, Tasmania on 31 July, 1918 to parents Reginald Charles Green and Geraldine Mary Lynch.
He was educated at Christian Brothers, St Patrick’s Launceston and St Virgil’s, Hobart before entering his tertiary education at the University of Tasmania, where he was a resident at Christ College from 1936-1941. He completed a Bachelor of Engineering and a Bachelor of Science (Maths, Physics) before entering the Society of Jesus, Loyola College, Watsonia, Victoria on 14 March, 1941.
He was ordained on 3 January, 1952 at St Mary’s, North Sydney by Cardinal N T Gilroy.
He was buried from Canisius College, Pymble on Friday, 7 July, 2006 at 9.30am.
Delivered by Elva Clay at the Memorial Mass held in Townsville for Fr Green
Fr Peter Green was born on 31st July 1918, feastday of his patron saint, Ignatius, and died on 4 July 2006, Independence Day, both dates very fitting, I think. Although I knew him from a distance for many years, it was not till 1995 that we really got to know him,. Fr Hay had been asked to celebrate Mass and other sacraments in this parish, to be unofficially our priest in residence, and John Hay asked Fr Green if he’d like to help or share in the job. From then on he became a very welcome and vital member of our parish.
He seemed when he came to us an austere man, very quiet and dignified. In a very short while we came to know him as a most dedicated priest with a deep commitment to Social Justice and peace issues. Being a Jesuit, he found it important to keep educating us, and so every few days there would be a handout of some information, which in early days we ignored, until we learned that this was really our homework and the next day we were going to have to discuss the issue and look a bit intelligent about our faith, and so we started to learn much more because of his passion for learning.
We came to see his trust in God, his deep Faith, his love of the Church, his affectionate views about some of the Roman hierarchy he thought had gone a little off the rails. We came to know a man of deep compassion and acceptance of each person as an equal member of God’s family, wherever they were at. I think the hymn “Come as you are” could be Peter’s theme song. All sorts of people came to Peter for hope and sometimes a restoration of faith in themselves, their God, their church. Some people seemed to be in great despair and Peter gave them hope. People came back to thank him for turning their lives around and for giving them hope where there didn’t seem to be any. He never ever said he was busy or didn’t have time, but helped there and then. I once took him in the middle of the night to the home of a dying man, where he stayed praying till morning when the man died.. At eighty years of age and more, he was always ready for whatever priestly work there was. “ If someone will pick me up, I’ll be ready on the footpath.” And he always was.
Sometimes when he didn’t know what to say to those who came for help, he prayed with them and for them. He said to me once, “That man came for help with his marriage. What do I tell him, What do I know about marriage? Do you know where I can send him for help. I just prayed for him.” He never claimed to be an expert on anything; he was unobtrusive and tried to live without fanfare. Well do we know the blue check flannelette shirt, the black ruggers, the old sandshoes (or the blue Bali sandals) and the giggle hat, along with the important plastic bag for carrying things. Just thinking of Peter always makes me smile – he was an interesting man and interested in everyone and everything. I often took Peter to meetings and dinners and this is how I remember him: each year going to the Anglican Bishop’s end of year dinner at St Marks, everyone wearing tuxedos or dark suits, Peter going in his usual uniform, my worrying that he might feel uncomfortable in the wrong outfit, only to have everyone rush to the door when we arrived and grab Peter; “Sit here Peter, over here Peter, we’ve saved you a seat Peter”, a welcome guest wherever he went. At talks and meetings, I would try to find a seat where Peter could see and hear, only to find that the guest speaker had grabbed him and they were deep in discussion about the latest whatever and the speaker had saved him a seat right up the front. I came to see that people valued not his outfit, but his detachment from worldly goods and his appreciation of the important issues.
The children in the Parish loved Fr Green and after children’s Liturgy on Sundays would love to take to him what they had done and learnt, because he always had words of encouragement and kindness for them. We eventually got a new priest but the children couldn’t understand why Fr Green wasn’t still there for them, so when they came back to the church after children’s liturgy they would go all over the church looking for him till they found him and showed him their efforts. He would try to shunt them off to the celebrant but it didn’t work. Only Fr Green would do.
He always joined us for morning tea after Mass and came to every other thing that happened in the Parish and Diocese, not because he wanted to, but in order to encourage our efforts and cheer us on. Peter was full of activity, especially in the Parish, came to all the Parish Council meetings, Scripture courses, other Adult Education programs, all our social and fund-raising activities – Movie nights, Cent sales, Garage Sales, Parish lunches, anything Parish, and encouraged us with his wisdom and guidance as well as his great sense of humour and his very positive view of life. Putting up the tent for the Garage Sale became near impossible with Fr Green’s help, with everybody including him collapsing in laughter after his engineering efforts and advice. I received a Curriculum Vitae from the Jesuits on the occasion of his 6o years as a Jesuit and found that Peter had degrees in Engineering and Science and had held many distinguished positions in various places, but what we experienced was his humility and desire to serve God and his companions.
Peter loved also to share time with his brother priests in the Diocese and to attend the Jesuit conferences and meetings anywhere in Australia where he could have a good discussion and debate about anything and everything. He looked forward to such meetings and shared any interesting insights he had gathered. One of his other loves was the House of Prayer which he often spoke of as a great blessing in our diocese.
Not everyone loved Fr Green. When we had three homilies, beginning of Mass, middle and end of Mass, some got cranky, and some got a little rude. It was great to see Fr Peter’s wry grin – well you can’t please them all! His homilies were great expressions of the Word to us, his knowledge of Vatican II and Canon Law educated us, and we know all about the ‘613 rules.’
I am sure he was often in pain or at least discomfort with his legs and back and his frailty, but we never heard him complain. Yet he was the first to offer sympathy and compassion to others in pain or trouble.
When he finally went to Sydney, he enjoyed the visits from Holy Family parishioners who went to visit him and take him out, Maureen, Sheila, Maria and others, and always seemed to recall stories from Holy Family and his time here.
I’d like to read a poem a parishioner penned rather quickly when Fr Green left Townsville to retire to Canossian College at Pymble – this expresses how many felt about this gem of a priest we were fortunate to have in our midst.
Poem by Coralie Costigan
FR PETER GREEN- ARRIVED IN TOWNSVILLE JANUARY 1982
RETIRED TO SYDNEY (PYMBLE) TUESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 2003
We gather today to farewell a friend.
A champion chap, a teacher of men
Our Peter Green – humble Jesuit priest
He’ll be missed by all, to say the least.
Tasmanian born, to the mainland you went
Now 22 years in the north you have spent.
They tell me you’re going to Sydney to live
To leave our great lifestyle –
What reason could one give???
Father Peter, you’re a gem, a great bloke.
Many people you’ve guided and given them hope.
People in despair have come your way,
You’ve helped them face another day.
We wish you the best, for us please continue to pray
With saddened hearts we watch you go on your way
We are all much better for having you here
Holy Family says goodbye with many a tear.