- IE IJA J/1972
- 16 January 1860-17 November 1948
Born: 16 January 1860, Kanzem, Trier, Germany
Entered: 13 September 1880, Turnov Austria - Austriae Province (ASR)
Final vows: 02 February 1896
Died: 17 November 1948, Manresa, Hawthorn, Melbourne, Australia - Australiae Province (ASL)
Transcribed ASR-HUN to HIB : 01 January 1901
◆ Immaculate Conception Church, Hawthorn, Australia 150 Celebrations : https://www.immaculateconceptionaust.com/150anniversary https://f695c25f-f64b-42f7-be8b-f86c240a0861.filesusr.com/ugd/347de3_02c13bd9e734450881fa4ce539b50d78.pdf
Fr Johannes (John) Peifer, a very special priest
Over 150 years, 23 Jesuits have served as Parish Priests at Hawthorn, two of them twice. Nearly one hundred have served as assistant priest, some briefly, some for decades, nine served as migrant chaplains and about forty lived in the community and largely did other works.
Fr Peifer was born in Germany in 1860 and entered the Austrian Province of the Jesuits in 1880. Ordained in 1894, he came to Australia shortly afterwards. After various ministries around the country, he spent 20 years at St Aloysius College in Sydney, then the last 24 years of his life in Hawthorn, where he actively engaged in sodality work and in sick calls. In the confessional his advice was sought by many in difficulties, and he was a well-known figure throughout Hawthorn. By young and old he was held in affectionate regard, and his death in November 1948, aged 88, deprived the Order of one of its oldest and most beloved priests.
Preaching the panegyric at his funeral, Archbishop Mannix said that his life would scarcely ever be written.
‘He was reticent and self-effacing to an extraordinary degree. Nobody ever thought of celebrating his birthday, because nobody knew it, and he did not tell. Jubilees were celebrated
by members of his own Order and by others, but there was no jubilee for Fr. Peifer, who told nobody the date of his ordination. He lived a comparatively unknown and unostentatious, but very full life, content to do God's work as it fell to his lot. Amongst his colleagues he was always genial and alert, and bubbled over with humour. In Hawthorn, continued the Archbishop, many homes will be desolate and many hearts will grieve because Fr. Peifer will be no longer amongst them to advise and console and sympathize. He spent most of his time in Sydney and Hawthorn. But I think it was in Hawthorn he found his real home and his most congenial work. He came to be regarded as almost a legend in Hawthorn. Everybody knew, respected and loved him, and it was a great sorrow to all when recently he had to retire from active work, when he could do no more than continue to pray for the work that he himself had done so much to promote.
Fr. Peifer was a great believer in the power of the written word. In going about his Hawthorn district he was in the habit of distributing Catholic Truth pamphlets in an unostentatious way. I am sure that many people owed their conversion to this gentle, hidden apostolate of Fr. Peifer. In his last days at Caritas Christi Hospice he was able to get up occasionally and go round amongst the patients in that great institution. With each one who was capable of reading he left a Catholic pamphlet.’
By a remarkable coincidence, while the Jesuits and their friends were celebrating the centenary of the coming of Austrian Jesuits to Australia in 1848, the last link with those heroic Jesuit pioneers should go to his reward in Hawthorn. Although Fr Peifer’s life will never be written, it is timely to remember this humble priest who served our church and the wider Hawthorn community so faithfully, during our 150th year.
◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
John Peifer was a stout lithe man, very cheerful, and according to all who knew him, a holy priest He entered the Society, 13 September 1880, and did his regency at Kalocsa, Hungary, teaching French and being prefect of discipline. Theology studies were completed at Innsbruck, 1891-94 and tertianship at Lainzerstrasse, Vienna, 1894-95. He returned to Kalocsa, 1895-97, and then 1897-98, went to Szatmar, Hungary. He arrived in Adelaide. 5 December 1898 and worked the Norwood parish for some time.
With his transfer to the Irish province, he taught at Xavier College for a few years and then spent a long period, 1903-23, at St Aloysius' College, Milsons Point, teaching and working at the Star of the Sea Church. He was assigned to the parish of Hawthorn, 1923-48, where he was minister for ten years and directed various sodalities.
He was a well-liked member of the province His manner was charming, his demeanor always cheerful, his humility quite unassumed. Yet he was a man of sound learning, especially linguistically in the classical tongues, in French and in Hungarian, as well as in his native German He was much appreciated both at St Aloysius' College and at Hawthorn, and was the last survivor of the Austrian fathers.