by Sean Connolly
Pope Francis has appointed Fr. Peter Smith (Vancouver-Portland) to be the auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon. The appointment was announced in Portland at 9:30 a.m. Pacific time on Tuesday, March 4. Fr. Peter follows Bishop Kenneth Steiner who retired in 2011.
Peter has been a member of the Brotherhood of the People of Praise since 1983. He has served the Archdiocese of Portland as the vicar general and moderator of the clergy since July 1, 2013. His ordination as bishop is tentatively scheduled for April 29, 2014.
“Peter is a pastor who turns people’s minds and hearts to Jesus in his homilies,” according to Joel Kibler, who heads the Brotherhood and has been Peter’s friend for almost 30 years. “He prays with people for physical healing and he helps people to reconcile with the Lord. He has a great sense of humor and he is always dependable.”
Peter says, “I am humbled and grateful for the Holy Father's confidence in me. Please keep me in your prayers as I step in to this new role with all its responsibilities and challenges. Pray especially for God the Father's blessing and protection."
Peter Smith was born in 1958 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He is the oldest of six children. At age 18, he served in the South African army, before earning degrees in business and law from the University of Natal. In a biographical article he wrote for the book, A Priest’s Life, he says that he had expected to join his father’s law firm, until he heard the Lord calling him to explore Christian community in the United States. “I didn’t know it then, but I was to spend only nine months in the next 26 years back in my homeland,” he wrote.
Kevin Ranaghan met Peter in South Africa in 1981. “I could see how deeply committed he was to the Lord and to the Church. I sensed that he was a young man seeking to serve and equipped with many gifts for service.”
Peter joined the People of Praise in South Bend, Indiana, in 1983. He was ordained a priest in 2001 at age 43. In 2006, he earned a licentiate degree in canon law (J.C.L.) from the Catholic University of America. He served as pastor of St. Rose of Lima parish in Portland from 2006 to 2013.
The Brotherhood of the People of Praise was established as a Private Association of the Faithful in the Catholic Church in 1999 by former Portland Archbishop John Vlazny, following years of work by Joel, Fr. Perron Auve (Vancouver-Portland) and others. This grant of juridical status paved the way for members of the Brotherhood to be ordained as Catholic priests, while remaining members of the Brotherhood and members of the People of Praise. Joel notes that the Brotherhood is an ecumenical association according to its statutes, though all of its current members are Roman Catholics. Following his ordination as bishop, Peter will continue to live in the Brotherhood house in north Portland.
“This is terrific news for our brother Peter,” said Craig Lent, the overall coordinator of the People of Praise. “I know I can speak for the whole community in expressing my heartfelt congratulations. I am delighted that Peter can serve the Catholic Church in this new way.”