Peterson, Robert J, 1892-1970, Jesuit priest

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Peterson, Robert J, 1892-1970, Jesuit priest

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17 October 1892-19 March 1970


Born: 17 October 1892, Richmond, Victoria, Australia
Entered: 31 October 1910, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained 26 July 1925. Posilopo, Naples
Final Vows: 02 February 1929, Corpus Christi College, Werribee, Australia
Died: 19 March 1970, St Vincent’s Hospital, Fitzroy - Australiae Province (ASL)

Part of the Loyola College, Watsonia, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia community at the time of death

Transcribed HIB to ASL : 05 April 1931

by 1916 at St Aloysius Jersey Channel Islands (FRA) studying
by 1921 in Australia - Regency
by 1924 in San Luigi, Napoli-Posilipo, Italy (NAP) studying
by 1928 at St Andrä, Austria (ANG) making Tertianship

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
Robert Peterson was educated at St Ignatius, Richmond, and St Patricks College, East Melbourne, and was in the public service briefly before entering the Society at Tullabeg, 31 October 1910. He was a university junior, 1912-15, and then studied philosophy at Jersey, 1915-18. He taught at Mungret for a few years before returning to Australia in 1920, where he taught at St Patrick's College, 1920-23. Theology studies followed at Posilopo, Naples, 1923-27, and tertianship at St Andra, Austria, 1927-28.
When he returned to Australia he went to Corpus Christi College, Werribee, and remained there until 1967. During these years he professed at various times fundamental theology, dogmatic theology, church history, psychology, biology, and taught French and Italian, He also instructed the students in liturgy and rites from 1935. He was consultor, 1930-66, prefect of studies, 1931-64, dean of discipline, 1939, editor of the “Jesuit Ordo of the Mass”, 1943-61, and in the last two years, professor of the history of culture and Western civilisation.
He was a good musician and amateur carpenter. His room contained gramophone records, fishing tackle, art reproductions, and carpentry tools. Each of his activities required special garb, such as overalls for carpentry, gumboots for fishing and an old coat for using the Gestetner copier.
In his early days he was a member of the college choir and the college orchestra. There was one piece in which he played half a dozen notes solo on his clarinet. This participation was at great cost to the player, but provided much entertainment to the students. His life was full of earnest activity and work, but he cherished a secret passion for listening to the wrestling on the radio.
He was the perfect secretary This was due not only to his tidiness, but above all to a humility by which he regarded himself as only suitable for doing the hack work while more talented men made use of him.
His last few years were lecturing in Christian art at Loyola College, Watsonia. All his life he spoke in clipped sentences. He peered at people benignly through rimless glasses, and displayed black, disciplined hair above a high, scholarly forehead. He winced at the Australian accent, and deplored the students' delight in Gilbert and Sullivan.
Peterson's work was solid and painstaking; he wasn't over-imaginative and his classes weren't exactly scintillating, but they were clear and precise. His lectures were punctuated now and again with an awkward sort of flight into poetry He was black and white in his opinions. He was also a man of culture who liked the fine things in life. He loved the classics both in literature and music. He produced drama, such as “Murder in the Cathedral”. It was a great success, and a good vehicle for a professor of eloquence to demonstrate his art!
Peterson also had a great love for cricket. He enjoyed watching games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He was not good in company, finding it hard to mix with others. but he did make some close friends and especially among families.
He was a very learned man and a hard worker. His spirituality was classical and austere, and a gentle melancholy was part of his temperament. Yet he had the Ignatian capacity for fun, and enjoyed his participation in college musical concerts. Those who did not know him well might have thought him a poseur, especially in regard to the fine arts. This was due to his desire always to say and do the right thing.
He sustained a stroke in the latter years of his life and his powers were very much reduced. He died on the feast of St Joseph after being a patient at St Vincent's Hospital for half a year.


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