Missionary priest credited the Holy Spirit for his unusual path

Father Peter Silvester, 1927-2012

Silvester,_Fr_Peter_for_webThe life of Rev. Peter Silvester SVD—who died at Techny on Dec. 20 at age 85—did not take a predictable path. When most of his contemporaries in the Society of the Divine Word studied philosophy and theology in their early 20s, he worked as an auto mechanic. When they were being ordained to the priesthood, he proposed to his sweetheart.

She said she wasn’t ready, and by the time she was ready, his heart was already following the path to the Society of the Divine Word. At age 32, he started his studies as a Divine Word Missionary and professed religious vows two years later in 1959.

Born in New York City in 1927, Edward Silvester was the second of Antonio and Jeanne Silvester’s two children. He took the name Peter in 1967 when he professed perpetual vows.

During his first assignment as a brother, the Society of the Divine Word sent him to Papua New Guinea, where he taught religious education for ten years. His assignments took him to Alexishafen, Port Moresby and Mount Hagen in that South Pacific island nation.

Then, a bishop asked a question that surprised him. The bishop asked Brother Peter if he had ever thought about becoming a priest. Brother Peter entered St. Paul’s Seminary near Sydney, Australia, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1978. Upon returning to Papua New Guinea, he served as novice director for six years.

Father Silvester once wrote, "I knew that if God could reach me in my hit-and-miss escapades with Him, He certainly could reach anyone else who didn’t really know which end is up!"

In 1990, the Society of the Divine Word asked him to return to the United States to work in the African-American apostolate in the South. In 1995, he moved to Bordentown, N.J., and remained active by filling in for parish priests in the area when they needed help. In 2002, he transferred to the Divine Word Residence at Techny, Ill., where he lived for the remainder of his life.

Father Silvester’s wake and funeral Mass took place on Dec. 22 in the Divine Word Residence chapel. He is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Techny.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in the name of Father Silvester can be made for the care of retired missionaries and may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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