[dropcap type=”4″]P[/dropcap]ope Francis declared that a Year of Consecrated Life be celebrated throughout the world, a time dedicated to the faithful whose vows of poverty, chastity and obedience serve to illuminate heaven on earth. To help mark this occasion, The Catholic Sun will feature each month members of religious communities who serve the Diocese of Phoenix.
Religious community: Order of Carmelites
Community charisms: Prayer, community life, ministry
Current role: Pastor of St. Agnes Parish
When he first heard God’s call: As a young child
Final vows: Oct. 10, 1990
Fr. Bradley Peterson is a priest of the Carmelite Order, founded 800 years ago on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. He came to Arizona as a teenager and has been pastor of St. Agnes Parish since 2009. The central Phoenix church is home to some 1,600 families.
The Catholic Sun: When did you first realize God was calling you to consecrated life?
Fr. Peterson: It goes way back to when I was an altar server. I had a feeling of home in the church. My parents were both very faithful Catholics and managed to get all seven of us at Mass every Sunday. Then at ASU I read a lot of philosophy and theology… I was responding to God’s lead to find out more about my faith and who Jesus is and to prepare unknowingly for the priesthood.
What story about your vocation journey stands out?
Fr. Peterson: My younger brother was a great influence. He was born with hydrocephalus and his name was Gerard. With his special needs and personality, he was the heart of love in our family. It made me more attuned to people in need, maybe a more caring person than I would have been. That daily interaction with him, helping him with his needs — he was able to speak very well and shone forth God’s love in everything he did. In those days they didn’t have the surgeries they have now, so his head was quite large and we worked together to strengthen his neck muscles. Eventually he was able to move into a wheelchair. We lost him shortly after we arrived in Phoenix.
Why did you choose the Carmelites?
Fr. Peterson: I was attracted to St. Therese of Lisieux. I read her “Story of a Soul” years before about her way of encountering God in life. As one of seven children, the give and take of community life was a natural for me. Our motto is to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ, so whatever ministry we engage in, we try to live out our prayer life and our community life in that ministry. I saw those things in the [Carmelite] priests at St. Agnes and as I discerned the call to religious life, the Carmelite way attracted me the most. It felt like God was saying, “This is the one.”
What has been most fulfilling about your life as a Carmelite Father?
Fr. Peterson: I think the most rewarding is to help others to learn the merciful love of God by teaching or by preaching. Pope Francis said that consecrated religious are signs in the Church of the reconciling love of God.