Fr. Ambrose Peeters dies
Remembered for pastoral, and cooking, skills
By Tony Staley
DE PERE -- Generous, gracious and concerned about others are ways that friends describe Norbertine Fr. Ambrose John Peeters, who died Sept. 24.
Nobertine Br. Steve Herro, social concerns director for the Green Bay Diocese, recalled the Christmas parties Fr. Peeters, as the house superior, organized for St. Norbert Abbey employees.
Although Fr. Peeters was in his 70s, "I remember his level of energy and how hard it was to keep up with him as his assistant in the kitchen," said Br. Herro, who was then in his 30s.
The kitchen was one of many places where Fr. Peeters was at home, said Fran Frigo, a longtime friend and former parishioner. "He made fantastic bread. He was a good cook. He canned vegetables and he made great fruitcake," she said.
Indeed, the abbey served fruitcake - a light cake with plenty of fruit and little cake - made from his recipe at the dinner following the Sept. 27 funeral Mass in St. Norbert Abbey Church, De Pere. Abbot Gary Neville presided at the liturgy.
Fr. Peeters had other skills, Frigo recalled, such as making ceramics - chess pieces a foot tall - and coffee cups, including one he gave her. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing and he was an exceptional pastor, she said.
Others remember him playing clarinet in the Little Chute Village Band along with his brothers and for serving in the Navy during World War II with five of his brothers; a sixth brother served in the Air Corps.
For Roger Utnehmer, president of Nicolet Broadcasting in Sturgeon Bay, Fr. Peeters "represented the very best of the Norbertine tradition. He was a man of incredible hospitality, generosity and good will with a passion for the poor."
In 1990, Utnehmer lived as an associate with the Norbertine community in Lima, Peru, during Fr. Peeters' 1985-1993 term as the abbey's mission procurator. As procurator, Fr. Peeters was responsible for obtaining supplies for the missions and lining up parishes for Norbertines to discuss the missions.
Fr. Peeters stayed involved with the abbey's missions in Lima and Santa Clotilde in Peru's northern jungle until four or five years ago, said his successor, Norbertine Fr. Tom Meulemans.
Utnehmer spent two weeks in Peru with Fr. Peeters in 1994. "He came alive with the children in the shanty town outside Lima," Utnehmer said. "You could see in his face his absolute joy and pleasure in being part of the Norbertine presence in Peru. The kids loved him. He was like the pied piper."
"He was very dedicated in that, as well as in everything he did," Fr. Meulemans said. "He put a lot of energy into it. He had a good sense of humor and did not get angry, even at
things that would anger other people. He used to say that if he felt any better it would be at least a venial sin."
Fr. Peeters was born May 28, 1924, in Little Chute to Richard and Anna (Weyenberg) Peeters. St. John Nepomucene was his home parish.
After graduating from St. John High School in Little Chute, he received a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1950 from St. Norbert College, De Pere, and a master's in religious education in 1959 from Notre Dame University. He did additional graduate studies at Villanova University, Philadelphia, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Milwaukee.
He was vested as a novice on Aug. 28, 1948, at St. Norbert Abbey and made simple vows two years later. He made solemn vows April 21, 1953, and was ordained to the priesthood on May 30, 1953.
He taught religion and German at St. Norbert High School, De Pere, and Central Catholic and Premontre high schools, Green Bay. At Premontre, he also was athletic director and registrar and from 1982 to 1985 was principal.
He was administrator at Our Lady of the Snows, Namur and St. Francis Xavier Parish, Brussels; and was pastor at St. Willebrord Parish, Green Bay, and St. Joseph Parish, De Pere. He was assistant pastor at several parishes in Wyoming.
Surviving are a sister, Doris Heiss, Appleton; brothers, James (Ida), Little Chute; Gerald (JoAnn), Neenah; Henry (Mary), Kalamazoo, Mich.; and Peter (Agnes), Portage, Mich.; nieces and nephews and the Norbertine Community.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Fr. R. Thomas, Robert and Carl, and a sister, Margaret Reider.
Burial was in the abbey cemetery.