On Monday, July 8th, St. Fidelis Seminary and other Catholic institutions and parishes around PNG celebrated the annual feast day of Blessed Peter To Rot (pronounced “toe rote”). He is the first (and so far, only) person to be recognized as a possible native born saint of Papua New Guinea. (There were many others, mostly foreign-born missionaries, that were also martyred in PNG during the war.)
About Blessed Peter To Rot
Peter To Rot was born around 1912 near Rabual on the island of New Britain, now a part of Papua New Guinea. His parents, converts to Catholicism, immersed Peter and his siblings in the life of the Church in their village. At age 18, Peter entered the Cathechist School at Taliligap.
At age 21, Peter returned to his village and began his work teaching in the parish school, visiting the sick, and proving to the people that he practiced what he preached.
Peter married in 1936 and began raising a family. By 1942, he and his wife had two children, a boy, Andreas, and a girl, Rufina.
In January 1942, the Japanese invaded the island and imprisoned all the missionaries working there, including the pastor of Peter’s parish. Peter was left in charge of the parish.
At first, the Japanese ignored the work of the parish, the prayer gatherings and social programs. As the war turned against them, the Japanese authorities forbad the people from praying to their God against the Japanese.
The Japanese also tried to curry support among the island’s tribal leaders by legalizing polygamy. Peter spoke out strongly against this, calling the people to adhere to the Church’s teaching on marriage and insisted that they come to him to have their marriages witnessed.
Eventually Peter was reported to the Japanese authorities. He was arrested along with his two brothers. Peter was initially sentenced to two months in jail for his activities but was not released when the time came. He received many visits from family and friends while in jail. He assured the people that he was ready to die for the faith and urged them to continue to follow its teachings.
One night, while the other prisoners were taken away from the jail, Peter ToRot was beaten and poisoned by a lethal injection.
He was beatified by Bl. Pope John Paul on January 17, 1995 during his visit to Papua New Guinea.
Feast Day Mass
St. Fidelis celebrated the feast day of Bl. Peter ToRot on July 8th, transferred from the Sunday before. An outdoor Mass was held in the coconut grove between the friary and the school buildings.
It was a small affair, just students, staff and their families. Gratefully, the weather was clear and cloudy which kept it from being too hot or muggy, a nice treat.
Later that day, Archbishop Stephen Reichert, OFM Cap and our friends from the Padre Pio Capuchin Formation House joined us for a mumu (the local variant of a luau) prepared by the students. Steamed pork, greens, bananas, cabbage and rice were prepared by fired heated stones in a large pit. Sisters Ofelia and Helen prepared some fish dishes and a rice cake dessert.
A good time was had by all, as they say.
As always, here are some photos from the day. Enjoy!
Here are a couple of links regarding Bl. Peter ToRot. Some of the information above was synthesized from these sites.