Priest from Chile visits the Mount

Father Harry Peterson with Eucharistic ministers, from left, Sisters Catherine Barber, George Mary Hagan, and Frances Miriam Spalding during Mass in the Motherhouse Chapel on May 24. Sister George Mary Hagan grew up in the same central Kentucky area as the Petersons, and she remains in contact with them.

Father Harry Peterson, SDB, a Salesian of Don Bosco priest, visited Mount Saint Joseph on May 24, 2011 and said Mass in the Motherhouse Chapel at 11 a.m., then joined the sisters for lunch. Father Harry, who last visited the Mount on June 13, 2008 with his brother, Father George Peterson, OCSO, a Trappist priest, is celebrating his golden jubilee this year.

Four family members accompanied Father Harry on this visit: his brother William Peterson and his wife, Rose Mary, of Loretto, Ky., and their daughter, Mary Rose George of Lebanon, Ky., as well as a sister, Catherine Rogers.

Father Harry has been serving in Chile for more than 40 years, and is the only American Salesian priest there. In fact, he told the sisters that he is the only Salesian priest from the state of Kentucky. His ministry is to evangelize on radio and television stations broadcasting in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, as well as Florida. He also has a Spanish language publication, Inspiracion, and a Light of the World Foundation website (in Spanish) at http://www.fundacionluzdelmundo.c/.

Sister Catherine Barber greets the visitors: Catherine Rogers, Rose Mary and William Peterson, and Mary Rose George. Sister Catherine used to teach some of the Petersons at Saint Francis School in their hometown of Saint Francis, Ky.

During his homily, Father Harry said that the two most important things we can do to deepen our spiritual life are to pray and to work. “Do all in Jesus’ name for the Glory of God,” he said.

He also praised the sacrament of marriage and said that his brother William and his wife were celebrating their 65th anniversary. He recalled that some people had expected his mother to enter a convent, but she had married instead and then prayed for one of her sons to become a priest. Three of her sons entered the priesthood: Harry, George, and Glenmary priest Father Gerald Peterson.

Father Harry accepted a gift from Sister Mary Matthias Ward and said a few words about his aunt, the late Sister Mary Joseph Peterson. The gift was a signed copy of “Divine Light,” the booklet depicting all of the stained glass windows in the Motherhouse Chapel.

He talked about how he was inspired to become a Salesian by the story of their founder, Saint John Bosco (1815-1888), a priest dedicated to teaching disadvantaged youths using a method known as the preventive system, which is based on love rather than punishment. He was asked to go to South America in 1968 when many Catholics there were starting to become Protestants, due to a lack of priests.

The Petersons, a farm family, have a long history with the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph. Their grandparents, John F. and Catherine Peterson, the parents of Sister Mary Joseph, donated the large crucifix that greets visitors to the cemetery. One of their brothers is married to the sister of Sister Jean Gertrude Mudd.

Father Harry spent time at Mount Saint Joseph as a child, visiting his aunt, Ursuline Sister Mary Joseph Peterson, and cousin, Ursuline Sister Jean Mark Buckler. Both are now deceased.