A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fr Peter Bradley sm

PBradley Funeral OrigEulogy by Fr Barry Scannell sm
It is a great honour to say a few words about Father Peter Bradley s.m. – a friend and brother in the Society of Mary. My name is Barry Scannell – I am the present Parish Priest of St Mary of the Angels in Wellington where Fr Peter was Parish Priest from 1982 to 1988.

Like our Provincial, Father David Kennerley, can I too offer my sympathy to the extended Bradley family. Father Peter was born into your family but we Marists were fortunate to have him as part of our family for over 60 years. Can I also acknowledge the presence here today of three priests who were part of Father Peter’s seminary band. Bishop Robyn Leamy, Father Vince Curtain and Father Earl Crotty entered the seminary at Greenmeadows with Peter in 1951. We extend our sympathy to you all on the loss of your band member.

In nearly 60 years as a priest, Peter accepted many appointments in the Society of Mary – and they are listed on the back of your Order of Service today. He was a teacher in our Marist colleges, he was a Parish Priest in two major Marist parishes, but most of all Peter was a missioner. He worked at Futuna Retreat House in Wellington for two years guiding the many retreatants who came for weekend retreats and especially recovering alcoholics. However, for many years he was part of the Mission Band who travelled around New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific giving Parish Missions. Only the very best preachers were selected for this ministry and Peter is considered by Marists as an extraordinarily gifted preacher. The Mission Band with their blue cloak, biretta, cross and cummerbund could certainly put the ‘fear of God’ into the faithful as they preached those missions with great zeal. People flocked to hear them and they visited the home of every parishioner during the time of the mission. After two weeks they would be exhausted and they would return to the Mission House in Hobson Street to recover before setting out on the next Mission.

I first came to know Father Peter Bradley when he was appointed Parish Priest of St Mary of the Angels in 1982. I was a parishioner in the Parish and a member of the Parish Council and Finance Committee.

At that time St Mary of the Angels was, as it always has been, a thriving inner city devotional Church. Peter quickly became an inspirational Parish Priest. This was particularly so with young people and he made many friends during his 7 years as Parish Priest. Those of us who were young adults making our way in the world really appreciated Peter’s friendship and his wonderful homilies. He had a wonderful ability after reflecting on the Sunday scriptures to impart a short pithy message which seemed always so relevant to life experiences. Many of us were deeply influenced by Peter. In that committed group of young people not only were friendships deepened which eventually led to marriage, but for some like me the seeds were sown to a commitment to Christ in religious life.

Peter made a great many friends during the 80’s at St Mary of the Angels – many from outside the Parish community. Someone told me that these years were some of the happiest of his priestly life. I remember his love for music and he had a great friend, a harpist from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra who would come and play the harp at the 5pm Mass on Sunday evening. The harp is not an easy instrument to transport around town but Jan would often attend this Mass and play the harp after Communion. It was so beautiful and powerful and the image I had then and still have is that this must be what heaven is like.

Peter was responsible for what I call the first major refurbishment at St Mary of the Angels in the mid 1980’s. This involved the cleaning and repair of the stained glass windows, the water/sand blasting and repainting of the outside of the Church and the installation of the copper roof. There are some amazing photographs of this work taken by the late Margaret Philpott.

While this time at St Mary of the Angels was undoubtedly a happy one for Peter, he also had his crosses. One heavy one was the tragic death of the Parish Secretary, Kerry Dear, her husband Brian and their three young children in a plane crash at Koromiko in the Marlborough Sounds in January 1986. This hit Peter and all of us associated with the Parish very hard. I can still remember the funeral with five coffins at the foot of the sanctuary – all members of one family. It is an image that I will never forget and I am sure Father Peter never did either.

Peter was a very funny person – his sense of humour sometimes had to be appreciated but many of us found him a very funny man. I remember on one occasion at the 7am Sunday morning Mass Peter strode into the sanctuary at the beginning of Mass and before the ‘sign of the cross’ said in an enthusiastic tone to the gathered congregation ‘Good morning’. Now the 7am parishioners are not known for their charismatic streak. With little or no response from the first ‘Good morning’ Pete boomed out a second ‘good morning’ like the missioner of old. With barely a ‘grunt’ from the assembled crowd Peter commented: ‘This is like a Mass for the Dead”.

In 1985 I left the Parish of St Mary of the Angels and went to the seminary at Greenmeadows to study for priesthood– no doubt influenced by Peter and the Marist Community who lived there. It was 1997 when Pete and I were once again reunited in Blenheim. He had just completed his term as Parish Priest of St Mary’s Manchester Street. It was once again a privilege to live with him under his band member Father Earl Crotty as Parish Priest.
One Saturday afternoon in Blenheim Father Earl and myself were enjoying a cup of coffee in the lounge of the Presbytery. Unbeknown to us a burglar slipped in through the closed but unlocked front door. I only discovered this a few minutes later when I went to my room and discovered the man rummaging through my drawers. I asked: What are you looking for? He said he was looking for a priest. Knowing that Pete was in his room I took the man downstairs, knocked at Pete’s door and told him there was a fellow here who wants to see a priest. Pete’s reply: Send him in. While Pete engaged with the fellow I rang 111. The Police quickly arrived to apprehend the young man much to Pete’s surprise. He had no idea that the man I have sent into his room had been robbing the house. Peter later quipped that he was really enjoying the conversation with the burglar.

I was sad to learn of Peter’s death on Monday – yet I knew that death was to be the healer from the pain that his weary body had suffered over the past few years. He could be ‘gruff’ but underneath that tough exterior Pete was a very soft and sensitive man. He was a gifted preacher, a faithful Marist and a great mentor and inspiration to many.

Peter, go now to the eternal reward that God has promised those who were faithful in life. You have run the race and kept the faith. Now the crown of eternal glory is yours. Rest in peace dear friend.

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