RHODE ISLAND—Father Peter Clarke, retired pastor of St. Edward Church in Murphy Village, S.C., died Feb. 18. He was 92.
A vigil will be held Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and the Mass of Christian Burial will be Feb. 28 at 11 a.m., both at St. Edward Church.
Father Clarke was born Sept. 8, 1927, in Providence, R.I., to William and Honor Duffy Clarke. He was a graduate of St. Paul’s School in Cranston and LaSalle Academy in Providence.
After high school Father Clarke entered the U.S. Army, where he was a recipient of the “World War II Victory Medal”.
Following his military service, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Bryant College in 1950 and a Bachelor of Arts from St. Mary’s College in 1959. In 1963, he received a Licentiate Sacred Theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., followed by a Master of Sacred Theology in 1971 from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Mass.
In 1980 he earned a Doctor of Sacred Theology from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy.
Father Clarke was incardinated into the Diocese of Charleston and ordained by Bishop Francis F. Rey in St. Paul Church in Cranston, R.I., on June 8, 1963.
When he shared his discernment story, Father Clarke said he knew he wanted to become a priest after studying the works of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, a French priest who lived in the Sahara Desert and was martyred there in 1916.
“de Foucauld believed the presence of the blessed Sacrament was very powerful and that Christ acted through his Eucharistic presence,” Father Clarke said in a 2013 interview with The Miscellany. “There were many places in South Carolina without a Catholic presence, and I thought there was a possibility of the Blessed Sacrament being in one more place through my presence in the diocese.”
Father Clarke’s first assignment was as an associate at Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island, then at St. Peter in Columbia, and St. Paul the Apostle in Spartanburg. He served as pastor at St. Joseph in Spartanburg and Our Lady of the Valley in Gloverville before taking time off for his theological studies from 1977-1980.
Upon his return in 1980, he served as associate for a year at St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach and then was appointed pastor of St. Mary and St. Joseph in Hartsville, and St. Joseph the Worker in Darlington until 1988. From 1988 to 2002 he served as pastor of St. Edward.
It was at St. Edward that Father Clarke found his calling serving the Irish Travelers. In 2001, he was summoned by Pope John Paul II as one of 33 worldwide specialists to discuss the plight of the travelers, representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the event. At this meeting with Pope John Paul II, he was humbled to have lunch and a discussion with Mother Teresa.
Although Father Clarke officially retired in 2001, he continued to serve, working as administrator pro tem at Church of the Nativity in 2004, and pastor of Our Lady of the Valley in 2006, where he served until his “second” retirement in 2012.
He told The Miscellany that each of his assignments had its own joys and challenges, while offering chances to deepen his missionary outreach to others and help them learn about the redemption of Christ’s presence.
Father Clarke also took on numerous administrative assignments for the diocese, including director of Propagation of the Faith, Continuing Education of Priests, and the Holy Childhood Association. He also served on the Presbyteral Council and College of Consultors. He served the National Federation of Priests and earned the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award from Wofford College in 1975.
Father Clarke was also an advocate of the immigrant. He served as a member of the USCCB’s Advisory Committee for the Office of Pastoral Care of Refugees and Migrants. He said it was the wanderer, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, an 18th century tramp and beggar, who inspired him.
“I feel very much that we are called to search,” the priest told The Miscellany in 2002.
His desire to learn never ended. At age 86, he enrolled in a nanophysics class at the University of South Carolina.
Father Clarke is survived by his sister, Anne Clarke of Rhode Island, and his nephew Steve Clarke. Messages of condolence may be sent to Mr. Clarke, 257 Wickford Court, North Kingstown, RI 02852.