Br Hilary Peterson
THE mystery surrounding religious life and life in general is one which Br Hilary Peterson has pondered for all of his 50 years as a Marist Brother.
He has often wondered what it is that has made some people quit religious orders while other, like him, have been able to remain. His association with the Marists is a long-one, dating back to when he was a boarder at Mt Gambier during the 1940s. Br Hilary said that theologically, religious life was a mystery which could not be explained, but only reverently explored.
We lived in an age that attempted to eliminate mystery with today's unexplained event assumed to be tomorrow's discovery. Mystery surrounds us. We can ignore it, get angry at its continued presence or learn to love it and allow it to lead us into deeper experience of life. Spirituality and mystery are closely related. He said that he often referred to religious life as the road less travelled and the fact that everyone marched to a different drum. Religious life was different and caused many to ask why he had entered religious life and what kept him going. Br Hilary said that having reverently explored and lived the life, he had sought after and pursued some deep-seated quests or desires. There was a religious quest, a God-quest, quests for holiness, happiness, success, truth and justice, stimulation and mystery. He said that along this road less travelled he had been guided by his provincials, superiors, community members, family and friends. He had been inspired by the brothers and friends who had gone before him, those who accompanied him on his journey, and those following him - all marching to a different drum.
Br Hilary grew up on a farm at Coleraine in the Western District and attended primary school there before becoming as boarder with the Marists for his secondary education. He decided on a religious vocation and in 1950 at age 16, he entered the Marist juniorate at Macedon.
The novitiate at Mittagong, NSW, followed and he received the Marist habit on July 2, 1952.Then came a long teaching career, initially at primary level and later in lower and mid secondary levels.
Br Hilary taught mainly Agricultural Science with other sciences, Religious Education, and English during his long career which took him to schools in Leeton, Griffiths, Broken Hill, Mt Gambier, Adelaide, East Brunswick, Kilmore and Western Australia. He fondly recalls that around 30 years of his teacher career was spent at boarding schools, where the brothers could establish great rapport with the students. You were with them before school, during school, for dinner, study, chapel and the dormitory, as well as weekends.
He said the demise of boarding schools had been brought about by better transport, access to school buses and the creation of far more Catholic secondary schools. Seven of the schools he had been at were boarding schools but now only three of these offered boarding. Br Hilary said that with most students being day students there was not the opportunity for staff to establish the rapport although sporting activities and the Remar program reached some. He said that he had not entered religious life to be a great teacher; he just wanted to do something for God.
Br Hilary came to Sale five years ago and while no longer teaching, is still actively involved at Catholic College Sale where he can be seen every day, tinkering in the workshop, mowing lawns and doing a host of other jobs.