A couple of weeks ago we learnt that Deacon Peter Brogan from the Northern Territory passed away. Peter was extremely well respected amongst those that he ministered to. I have included below the homily that was used at his funeral Mass to give you all an idea of the wonderful man he was and the loss he is to the community that he worked with.
Peter Brogan was born at Papungala near Port Keats in 1929 and grew up there until he was about 5 years old. From there he was taken to the Alice Springs Bungalow and went to school there. He was then taken to Kahlin Compound in Darwin. In 1941, when he turned 12, he was taken to Garden Point Mission on Melville Island. At the time Fr Connors and Br Bennett were in charge of the boys.
In 1942, when the Japanese bombed Darwin, the girls were evacuated to Darwin and sent south to Carrington in South Australia. Peter and the boys stayed at Garden Point to look after the place. When Peter completed his schooling on the mission, his first job was working with Fr John Flynn as a mechanic. Later on he worked in the market garden with Br John Barrett. He also worked on the tobacco plantation. Peter was also the skipper of the "Quail", a boat left by the Americans as a gift to the Mission.
Peter would also go out with the rest of the boys in the evenings on the Quail, crocodile shooting. Every Sunday was a hunting day, either fishing off the Quail or wallaby shooting at Seventeen Mile. The boys also went camping out at Goolumbini and from there they would walk to Paru to round up donkeys and bring them back to Garden Point.
He loved camping and hunting at Wulawunga and looking for seagull and turtle eggs on Seagull Island as well as fishing and looking for mud crab at Air Force creek.
Peter was looked after on the Mission by Justin, Charlie and Long Lyn Puruntatameri growing into a man. His family is now entrenched into Tiwi culture and accepted by the Tiwi people.
Peter met Thecla on the Mission at Garden Point. They married in 1950 at the old Church and established a Village called St Anne's where other married couples lived.
In 1967, the Government assisted in the hand-over of the Mission to the Tiwi people. Most of the children and families were sent into Darwin. Peter and Thecla were one of the only couples who stayed on at Garden Point. Peter never left Garden Point, since he arrived as a 12 year old boy (for over 70 years). Although he loved his family at Palumpa, he could never go back to live but he loved to go back and visit.
Peter was ordained Deacon by Bishop Ted Collins msc on Saturday July 7th 1990 at Our Lady of Victories Church at Garden Point. He was the first person to be ordained by the Catholic Church from the Tiwi Islands. Fr John Leary msc was a great support in his training towards the big day. Fr Tim reflects that not only was that day significant for Peter but also for his wife and family, the Tiwi Islands Communities, and indeed for the Catholic Church. Thecla was very much part of the liturgy, clothing him with his Diaconal Chasuble, symbolizing her vital role in his journey and ministry. Peter would go on to be a faithful Catholic Aboriginal leader, representing the Church on many occasions and at different events.
Peter developed a real pastoral heart. He visited many people especially the sick, providing them with Holy Communion and the support of his prayers. He instructed many parents as they prepared for their children's baptisms. He prepared a number of couples for marriage too. Sr Barbara reflects that he was a simple, gentle and holy man, going to the Church every morning for prayer, often with kids trailing behind. His love, care and responsibility for the Church was constant. He took seriously his vocation to care for the people and for God's house. When Peter was around you could be confident that things would get done. Even during his sickness he was still trying to reach out. When Patrick's brother passed away Peter got Kurt to take him up that night in the wheelchair so he could be with family, he said the prayers and blessings for the one who had passed. He also had a strong devotion to Mary, carrying his Rosary beads with him and often praying the Rosary.
For a time Peter served as a Board member of Nungalinya Theological College in Darwin and Manalama, which represents the Catholic students at the College. Fr Mauri recalls his conscientious and quiet questioning ways that he brought to these roles.
When in Darwin Peter always felt at home at St Martin de Porres Catholic Aboriginal Community. He was part of this family which has many of its founders from the Garden Point Community. The unique sense of belonging, Community and family he felt there was the same as the deep bonds experienced by the Garden Point mob.
Peter also had a stint as the manager of the Pularumpi Town Council.
Peter was a faithful, long serving member of the Garden Point Community.
During his time in the Hospice before going home Peter had a constant procession of family and friends visiting him. His peaceful, and even joyful, acceptance of his dying touched many people. His faith in God and belief in Jesus' presence in the Eucharist was unflinching. Fr Dan recalls that the first thing Peter said as he arrived at the Hospice was "Do you have Holy Communion'"
Fr Mauri spent Easter this year at Garden Point and reflected how being with Peter deepened his experience and understanding the Lord's Passion and Resurrection. Peter, although at times his mind would wander, when focused he was vividly aware of the Lord's presence - the source of his peace. The image of Mary holding the body of her son reminded Fr Mauri of the painful privilege and later consolation that the family have had in tenderly caring for Peter these last few years.
In his last days back at the Hospice he was surrounded by his loving family and friends. After one of the prayer times he calmly and confidently said to Fr Dan "I think it's my time." Peter was as rock solid in his faith, hope and love during his final days of suffering and death as he was during his whole life.
Well done good and faithful servant, come and share your master's happiness!