Collin Peterson

Collin Peterson

Class of 1978, MDiv | Interviewd by Ian Sheh

[VST] Do you have any fond memories of your time at VST?

[Collin Peterson] The memories fall into two overlapping categories. I lived in residence for two of the three years I was at VST. Some of the other residents were theological students but a lot of them were simply UBC students. There were lots of good times in terms of our social gatherings. I had taught myself to play guitar a couple of years earlier on my way to a summer mission field. There were a few other guitar players so we would get together and jam, and have a few cold beers.

And then, of course, there are my memories of being a student of VST. A lot of those memories have to do with some of the people who are teaching at VST at the time. The only one that I stay in touch with regularly is Dr. Terry Anderson, who just turned 90 here a couple of weeks ago. He was our professor of Christian Ethics. Jim Lindenberger taught Old Testament, and he was also my faculty advisor. Lots of fun with Jim, he was a good guy.

It was still in the very early stages of VST’s experiment with a new way of doing theological education, at least in competency skills. We were, in a good sense, guinea pigs. We were students who were part of this fairly radical, I think at that time, experiment where instead of giving letter grades or number grades, it was either approved or not approved. I can’t remember the categories. It made for some interesting times.

How has your education weaved its way into your vocation as a priest?

Yeah, that’s a good question. For reasons that are long and complicated in some respects, I made the decision in 2011 to become a Roman Catholic. In 2016 I was ordained as a married Roman Catholic priest. One of the things I continue, even though I’m now Catholic, is to rejoice in the education I received in two areas in particular: Biblical and preaching. Catholic seminarians certainly get some exposure to Biblical studies, but I really think my love of Scripture and the importance of the word in the liturgy is something that is a product of my education. As well, the love of preaching. I think I preach longer than most of my brother priests. Generally speaking, I think I give more attention to preaching and put more time and energy into preparing for preaching. It bears fruit, you get lots of good feedback from people who appreciate the quality of a good homily.

The other thing, which I got partly at VST and certainly through someone like Gerald Hobbs, but also through connections I have here in Winnipeg, is a love of music. I only play the guitar, I don’t read music or anything like that, and I’m not a strong singer. But I have come to value the importance of hymnody. And have quite a bit of knowledge about it. In my decades as a United Church minister, the minister was usually the one who selected the hymns for Sunday worship, sometimes in consultation with the choir director. Most Catholic churches have music directors, and they assume pretty much full responsibility for the selection of music, and only on occasion do priests weigh in. At St Paul’s College, the tradition has been that the priest picks the hymns. I’m grateful for my knowledge and love of hymnody. I think from my ability to think of hymns and knowing where to put them and what purpose they might serve in terms of liturgy, that’s something that I really appreciate.

Do you have any encouragement or advice for students at VST?

For me, it’s always been important to understand that the church is the salt of the world. That the church is called to be distinct. And Jesus repeatedly warned his followers that if they were faithfully following him, they would find themselves in conflict with the world – that they would have an adversarial relationship with the world. And that the church represented something that, in a sense, both challenges and judges the world, and calls into question many of the predominant values and beliefs. In a sense, the church represents a kind of counter-culture. Yet it seems to me that all the churches, including the Catholic Church, post-Vatican II anyway, has concerned itself with becoming attractive to the world, embracing certain social trends, movements of one kind or another, political and social movements. Some of those deserve to be supported, but sometimes I get the sense that people make that a priority, so that the church at its worst becomes an agent of social change and forgets about the gospel, forgets about the conversion of souls, and forgets about the distinctiveness which sets the church apart from the world around it. Remember, to be the church is to be the salt and light for the world, and not simply enter into a partnership with the world.

One of my favourite quotes, along those lines, actually comes from GK Chesterton. When he was asked why he became a Catholic he said, “well the Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a person from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age, or child of his generation.” So, there’s something: to be deeply committed to the Christian faith is to be a part of something that is greater than and distinct from the ebb and flow of human history.

Colin Peterson was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After completing a degree in Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba, he studied theology at Vancouver School of Theology. He graduated with a MDiv and was ordained a minister of the United Church of Canada in 1978. He later completed an STM. He served two rural pastoral charges in Manitoba and one suburban pastoral charge in Winnipeg before becoming a correctional chaplain in 2001. During his years in correctional chaplaincy he decided to become a Roman Catholic and was ordained a Catholic Priest on June 10, 2016. After ordination he served as Parochial Vicar at St. Vital Roman Catholic Church for three years and was appointed Priest/Chaplain of St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba, in July of 2019. He has been married to Sandy since 1981. They have three adult children and several grandchildren. Colin plans to retire in spring of 2022 at which time he will devote more time to a variety of interests including wildlife photography, hiking, and wood carving.