Papua New Guinean Catholics and their Christian friends in Australia are organising a Special Holy Mass in English and Tok Pisin in honour of Blessed Peter ToRot in celebration of the 100th year of his birth.
The mass will be held at St Vincent’s Catholic Church, 7 Bindel Street, Aranda in Canberra at 11am next Saturday and will be followed by a shared lunch.
A citation in the Australian Dictionary of Biography notes that Peter To Rot was born at Rakunai, New Britain, to Angelo Tu Puia, a Tolai village chief, and his wife Maria Ia Tumul, both of whom had been received into the Catholic Church in 1898.
Pleasant in nature, and gentle and helpful in disposition, he was enrolled in 1930 at St Paul’s College, Taliligap, which was founded by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart for the formation of lay catechists. Three years later he was appointed catechist to the parish of Rakunai. On 11 November 1936 he married Paula Ia Varpit.
The Japanese occupation of New Britain in January 1942 marked a turning-point in To Rot’s life. When the European missionaries were interned, he found himself responsible for the mission.
He gathered the people for prayer, baptized and catechized adults and children, officiated at marriages, visited the sick, taught school children and catechists, and carried food to the interned missionaries and prisoners of war.
Towards the end of 1943 Japanese tolerance of the Christian faith changed to confrontation. Peter was summoned to a meeting, questioned about his activities and ordered to restrict them on the grounds of ‘wartime security’. About March 1944 he was forbidden to engage in any form of religious observance.
Although he exercised more prudence, he refused to cease doing what he regarded as his duty. He built an underground shelter on his property at Taogo and continued to bring people there for prayer and the Sacraments. The Japanese had already imprisoned and executed those who broke their regulations, and he was aware of the risks involved. Continue reading
News category: Features.