Diamond jubilee celebrations for Mons Peter Jeffrey (SPC 1953-55)

August 1, 2023

Mons Peter Jeffrey.

A Mass of Thanksgiving was held last week to celebrate the diamond jubilee of the Ordination to the Priesthood of Monsignor Peter John Jeffrey (SPC 1953-55).

Mons Jeffrey during his celebration Mass.

A large crowd turned out to celebrate the 60th anniversary celebrations, which were held at St Brendan’s Catholic Church in Shepparton.

Monsignor Frank Marriott OAM made a toast to Mons Jeffrey, noting he is “spiritual, hardworking and respectful of (his) congregations … (and) has contributed significantly to the big church and assisted in the development of our wonderful diocese”.

The much-loved Parish Priest of St Mary’s Mooroopna, Mons Jeffrey has achieved much in his lifetime.

“I have been blessed in my life, and I think my great aim would be to appreciate and respect the dignity of every person,” he said in a recent news story.

Peter was born in Bendigo in 1938 and was schooled at St Marys Convent until grade four with the Marist Brothers before moving across to St Patrick’s in Ballarat in 1953.

Here he distinguished himself as a talented debater and a College Prefect.

Mons Jeffrey cutting and blessing the celebration cake.

He was crowned the College’s prestigious Purton Oratory speaking prize in 1955 and his oratory skills continue to receive praise today.

In 1955 after graduating from St Patrick’s College, through prayer, Peter decided to become a priest but to his dismay, was initially knocked back.

He was eventually permitted to enter the seminary with a little bit of Canon law help.

He then completed an eight-year seminary course and was ordained in 1963.

Throughout his ordained ministry, Mons Jeffrey held several prominent positions within the worldwide Catholic Church, including Rector of Corpus Christi College in Melbourne, Rector of the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva, Fiji, and Rector of Holy Cross Seminary in Auckland, New Zealand.

As well as seminary and parish-based roles, he was chairman of both the Sandhurst School Education Board and Diocesan Education Commission, along with the director of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria.

Mons Jeffrey has referred to one of his most memorable achievements as being named Prelate of Honour by Pope John Paul II in January 2000, receiving the title ‘Monsignor’.

Mons Jeffrey joining in the celebrations.

Two years later, he became a friendly face in the greater Shepparton community after he was appointed Parish Priest of St Brendan’s Catholic Church.

In 2012 he moved to New Zealand, but his stay abroad was cut short and he was forced to return to Australia in 2014  after being diagnosed with cancer.

Fortunately with his health improving, Mons Jeffrey returned to the region as Parish Priest of St Mary’s Mooroopna, where he’s been ever since.

On his health scare, Mons Jeffrey said “he was lucky to be alive” and that “every day was a gift”.

He describes himself as a “proud alumnus” of St Patrick’s.

Mons Jeffrey shared a snapshot of his life story in our popular “Where are they now” profile series in recent years, where he made the following observation.

“In the various Parishes where I have worked during my 68 years as a Diocesan Priest from time to time I have met Old Boys of the College.  It is fascinating to chat about the intervening years. Many make significant contributions to society through strong family life and give strong witness through community involvements. They are ‘leaders’ in civic and professional life. Under my breath, I feel like chanting “War Cry – St Pat’s”.

Thank you to Old Collegian Shane McKinley (SPC 1965-67) and Mons Frank Marriott OAM for their help with this story.

Mons Jeffrey standing alongside fellow Old Collegian and Bishop of Sandhurst Fr Shane Mackinlay (SPC 1977-82) during his Diamond Jubilee celebrations.