For over a year our beloved confrere
Father Peter (William) Blue OSB
had been a resident in the Duduza Hospice at Maria Ratchitz Mission. In February 2019 a general weakness called for him to live in the residence where he had been providing pastoral care for so many over the years. His bodily strength gradually declined while his mind remained clear and active till the end. It was in the Hospice, lovingly cared for by the staff and attended to by his dear friends among the Nardini Franciscan Sisters, that he died peacefully at 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 March 2020 after having been recently visited by his confreres of Inkamana Abbey.
Father Peter was born on 1 August 1931 on Staten Island, New York, the son of William T. and Margaret L. Blue. He grew up in Douglaston, NY with his brother and sister. After attending the local St. Anastasia Parochial School, he joined the Benedictine Mission Seminary in Newton in 1945. Entering the novitiate of St. Paul’s Abbey in 1951, he made his first profession on 15 August 1952 and final profession on 8 October 1955. He began his theology studies at St. Mary’s Abbey School of Theology in Morristown and was ordained a deacon on 26 May 1956. In the meantime, he acquired at MA degree from Seton Hall University. Fr. Peter was a born teacher and even as a cleric began teaching in the minor seminary at the abbey, particularly Latin, Greek, German and English. He enjoyed teaching and was appreciated by his students. Like many of the younger monks, his summers were spent at Camp St. Benedict where the campers were treated to his enthusiasm for nature, an interest evident throughout his life. When the high school closed for a while in the 60s, Fr. Peter continued his study of theology at St. Vincent Seminary, St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA. He was ordained a priest in the abbey church on 30 May 1970 by Abbot-Bishop Victor Hälg, OSB of Ndanda Abbey during his only trip to the USA and would have celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination later this year.
After his ordination, he became involved in the abbey retreat ministry and at the same time was part of the monastery formation team, serving as novice and junior master for a few years. His work in the retreat house evolved into his serious involvement with Marriage Encounter from 1974 to 1980. From 1978 to 1980 Fr. Peter was back in the classroom full time at the nearby Pope John XXIII Catholic High School, Sparta, NJ teaching English and theology. To aid in his ever growing pastoral ministry, Fr. Peter undertook the CPE program at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC. This opened up a new dimension in his life; he made a commitment to the recovering community at this time.
A new chapter began when he was missioned to Inkamana Abbey, South Africa on 6 July 1988. With his teaching skills and enthusiasm, he taught at first in Inkamana High School and in our monastic formation program. He would substitute in the Vryheid Parish for different lengths of time and assist in the Inkamana Parish. In the 90s he went to our study house in Howick where he served the monk students as chaplain for three years. During this time he developed his retreat ministry and gave Marriage Encounters. He gave 80 Marriage Encounter weekends between the USA and SA. His services as a retreat master were in great demand in Zululand and beyond. He would give young monks their retreat in preparation for vows.
When the Nardini Sisters took on the Maria Ratschitz Mission and began an AIDS program for youth, Fr. Peter was a strong advocate and support for this new ministry. He regularly traveled to Maria Ratschitz to give spiritual assistance to the sisters and with his pastoral skills support those suffering from HIV/AIDS. After spending a year in 2002–2003 in Waldfrieden, Namibia and substituting as parish priest in Richard’s Bay from January 2004 to March 2007, Fr. Peter moved to Maria Ratschitz on a permanent basis. Each day he faithfully visited the Hospice, celebrated Mass for the sisters and taught in their formation program. As one of his sister friends said, his presence “became a ray of light in a community overwhelmed by AIDS and poverty.” His identification with these people became clear as he lived the last year of his life in their midst.
Those who knew Fr. Peter could not help but feel his enthusiasm for people in need, his love of nature, his voracious reading habits, his love of words and language, his always looking for fairness in dealing with people and seeing hope for others in desperate situations.
He died on the eve of the Transitus of St. Benedict. We pray that the same lamps were burning brightly upon the road Fr. Peter was taking up to heaven. The funeral Mass and burial were at Inkamana Abbey at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, 26 March 2020.
Kindly remember our confrere in your prayers.
— Abbot John Paul Mwaniki, OSB and the community of Inkamana Abbey