Father Peter Hannah says goodbye to Newman Center, heads to Rome to continue his studies
Friday, Jul. 07, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY — After three years as associate pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center, Dominican Father Peter Hannah is moving on to continue his studies in Rome. He will attend the Pontifical Biblical Institute and study for a licentiate, a degree that is a necessity to teach Sacred Scripture in Catholic seminaries.
“It’s hard to imagine a more inspiring place to study in the world” than Rome, a site steeped in early Christian history, Fr. Peter said.
Ever since his last year of college, Fr. Peter had difficulty prying himself away from the academic side of Catholicism, he said. Though he was raised Presbyterian, the writings of C.S. Lewis caught his eye and “brought me ... to the [Catholic] faith,” he said. Through Lewis’ works, he was introduced to G.K. Chesterton, a Catholic writer whose “quirky writing style I found very entertaining ... (and) arresting,” Fr. Peter said.
Fr. Peter’s studies eventually inspired him to convert to Catholicism and be ordained to the priesthood. Throughout his faith journey the pursuit of knowledge has remained important to him, he said. “Part of loving God with our mind is by reflecting … asking questions. In order to have a healthy, happy spiritual life one should … seek out God academically” as well as spiritually, Fr. Peter said.
Though he is looking forward to expanding his knowledge of the Catholic Church, it is a bittersweet feeling to have to leave the first parish he worked in as a priest, he said. “St. Catherine’s is a very welcoming community. … It was a great place for me to get my start,” Fr. Peter said, adding that he is grateful to all the members of the parish and the students he ministered to for the kindness they showed him.
Fr. Peter brought “his faith, wisdom and knowledge” to the discussions he hosted at the parish, his work with the students and his other activities, said Dominican Father Lukasz Misko, pastor.
“He was the go-to-guy for Catholic theology and questions,” Fr. Lukasz said, adding that training people in the ministry of the Eucharist was Fr. Peter’s “forte, and his passion as well. He was a huge help. (I’ll miss) everything about him!”
Many parishioners of St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center have fond memories of Fr. Peter. Felysha Thompson Turnidge, who has been attending the parish for four years, said she is grateful to him for his work catechizing her fiancé.
“Fr. Peter Hannah has blessed this community with wisdom … from the Holy Spirit,” she said. “He’s very knowledgeable. … He makes everyone feel welcome.”
Another parishioner who has been a part of the parish for over a year, Michele Paoletti-Schelp, said that Fr. Peter’s many seminars and discussions were always illuminating. “He has a good way of presenting … and holding discussions,” she said. His witty sense of humor makes all his lessons “enjoyable and you learn a lot,” Paoletti-Schelp said.
“Some people have a lot of knowledge, but they look down on you,” she said, but Fr. Peter’s lessons feel “like he’s just talking with you as a friend, … not teaching at you, he’s studying with you. He’s a good teacher in that approach.” His work reorganizing the parish library and his wonderful homilies make it hard to see him go, Paoletti-Schelp said.
Barbara Bannon, who has been a parishioner for 37 years, said “one of the things that impressed me about him was that this was his first parish assignment. … He, in effect, had to take over a lot of things that he didn’t expect right away. … And he just did that. He’s an amazing person.”
“By nature, he’s an academic and a scholar, but he’s very good at reaching out to people also. He’s an incredibly compassionate person … (and) we’re definitely going to miss him,” Bannon said.
Fr. Peter celebrated his last Mass at St. Catherine’s on July 3 and will leave on July 8.