Review: Sincere Gift of Self - Blessed Peter To Rot by Fr Adrian Meaney

posted Jun 23, 2014, 5:21 PM by MSC Mission Office Australia

It will be 20 years next January since Pope John Paul II had a Port Moresby stopover on his way to Sydney to beatify Mary MacKillop. The PNG stop was for the beatification of the Tolai catechist, Peter To Rot. This was a momentous day for the country, the first person to be beatified, and a layman rather than a priest missionary.

Perhaps not everyone, not every Catholic, knows the story of Peter To Rot. It is certainly worth knowing, especially as there are hopes that he will be well on the road to canonisation.

Fr Adrian Meaney MSC, of the MSC Mission Office based in Sydney, has produced a welcome booklet that fills the need for wider knowledge of Peter To Rot. He has drawn on a number of sources, some of them the documents prepared to present Peter’s cause to the Vatican and for its success in his ratification. He has drawn on his own experiences of many years in Papua New Guinea – and his role in welcoming Pope John Paul II in his two visits to PNG.

The booklet opens with an overview of the missionary activity in Papua New Guinea, especially the presence of the German MSC missionaries in New Britain, and the establishment of Vunapope outside Rabaul. They arrived in 1882 and, as the booklet points out strongly, the Germans established training for catechists and opportunities for their work. This was the context for the adult life of  Peter To Rot, a devout man, a married man with family, proud of his faith and a desire to communicate it.

Fr Meaney includes some testimony from one of the priests who knew him well and admired him, Fr Karl Laufer MSC, his parish priest.

The book also includes the background to PNG’s involvement in World War II, and the Japanese occupation of New Britain and the imprisonment of Bishop Leo Sharmach, and the priests, brothers and sisters. (Some readers may remember this story of imprisonment in the 2013 ABC television film, Sisters of War.) Peter, who had a strong reputation amongst the Tolais, was allowed to continue his work. But in the later years of the war, the Japanese withdrew their permissions, tried to win over the locals by the re-introducing of polygamy. Peter took a stand on this and was arrested, tortured, and eventually killed. He was seen as a martyr for his faith and for his moral stances.

There is a chapter on the Beatification ceremony.

The booklet is extensively illustrated with pictures of Peter himself, representations of his work and his martyrdom – and even the image on a PNG stamp in his honour.

Peter Malone MSC

Copies of "Sincere Gift of Self - Blessed Peter To Rot" by Fr Adrian Meaney are available from the MSC Mission Office at a cost of $5 each or ten for $40.