In Memoriam: Br Peter Bernard Clinch CFC 17th Congregational Leader


"I thank my God each time I think of you and when I pray for you, I pray with joy."
~ Philippians 13-4

We are still coming to terms with the untimely and sudden death of our beloved brother, Peter Bernard Clinch, who died suddenly on 28 January in the early hours of Sunday morning. The expressions of condolence and consolation have been extraordinary over recent days coming from Religious Institutes and their leadership, Edmund Rice Network members and Bishops.

Tonight, a memorial service will be held at the Treacy Centre, Parkville where many will gather to pay tribute to him. Peter grew up in Murrumbeena, a working-class suburb in those days. His father, Kevin, was a plumber, a forthright man who had a compassionate heart. His mother, Joan, was the homemaker with whom Peter had a close relationship. In latter years Joan was confined to a wheelchair, but it did not prevent her determination to get out and about. Peter was close to his siblings Kathleen, Maureen (deceased), Stephen, Robert, Margaret, and Michael as well as their spouses and children. There were regular gatherings of the clan which Peter looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed. It was also in this home environment that he was inducted (some would say baptised) into his lifelong following of the Australian Rules football team Collingwood, attending games with his aunt Von.

Peter's education was at Christian Brothers College, St Kilda, where he was a dependable and serious student. He was taught for four of those years by Br Clem Barrett, who also coached him in athletics. Peter still holds a College athletics record to this day. He entered the Juvenate at Bundoora to complete his Form 5 and 6 years, then proceeded to the novitiate at Mater Dei Lower Plenty, where Br Michael Borromeo Stallard guided him as his novice master.

They later lived in community, both involved with the refugee homework tutoring service in St Albans, reflecting Peter's deep commitment to those on the margin Peter loved teaching and school life.

He was sent to Ringwood, then Austin's Ferry in Tasmania, Pascoe Vale in Melbourne and had association with St Leo's students during his studies at Yarra Theological Union.

He ran an ordered and well-disciplined classroom where students knew where they stood, while also knowing he had their back if they got into trouble.

He organised trips to the Centre of Australia and to Tassie with classes and loved the interaction with young people. He had a way of relating to them that put them a tease while assuring them of his care for them. His ability to form relationships led him into pastoral work with senior students and later as Director of the Youth Spirituality Centre at Amberley where his talents shone.

He established a young adult community at Amberley and oversaw the construction of a house which became home to them all. The friendships and interactions with those young adults of those years continued too today. Peter served as a chaplain for a period at MacKillop Family Services as well as to refugees locked away in the detention centre in Melbourne. He regularly visited them and with his good friend Fr Peter Carrucan, led religious services for them.

When some were released into the community, he took them under his wing, working tirelessly to get them into housing and a job. Peter often reflected on the influential period of studying theology at Yarra Theological Union.

It was here he became grounded in theological reflection, scripture, and contemporary religious education praxis. He would say this was his real formation time in his life. Another defining time for him was his experience at Loreto House, Dublin preparing him to be a formator.

He came away from that time with personal insight, awareness of group dynamics and the role and responsibility of a leader. Later he spent time in Nemi, Italy in a formators' program which he found very beneficial. These experiences laid the foundation for his future calling to leadership on Province Leadership Teams and later Province Leader and Congregation Leader.

Peter's leadership qualities influenced the vision and direction of Province life in both St Patrick's Province and the Oceania Province. Peter was a large-hearted man, who could be direct and determined, yet holding a vision that always took us beyond the current reality into a new way of thinking and seeing the world. His compassion for the poor and Earth was reflected in the simplicity of his life. David Silva, his Congregational team member in Rome packed his room indicating there were hardly any belongings in his cupboard.

Peter Bernard Clinch "we have loved you in life and let us not forget you in death" (St Ambrose). May you be at peace in the Divine and expansive love of a God you came to know so well. Rest in peace, my brother.

Gerard Brady cfc
Province Leader
Oceania Province

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