Fr Peter Bretaudeau returns to France

Fr Peter Bretaudeau, MEP who served for 57 yearts in Malaysia has decided to go back to France to continue his missionary life among the French people.

May 29, 2014

Fr Peter Bretaudeau, MEP who served for 57 yearts in Malaysia has decided to go back to France to continue his missionary life among the French people.

Fr George Harrison, the parish priest of the Church of the Holy Family in Kajang where Fr Peter is the resident priest asked him a few questions. Below is the interview.

What made you to become a Priest? A Missionary?

When I was 10 years old, I was serving as an Altar server at the daily morning mass in my parish. I decided to become a priest, and four of my classmates wanted to follow as well. In the end only one joined the minor seminary, and he remained only for one year. It was my first year of seminary (12 yrs old), my professor a priest wanted to become a missionary, but his poor health did not permit him to go, and that is why I wanted to go as missionary in his place. This gave me a chance to get to know the MEP, the Foreign Mission of Paris.

Could you share about your parents and siblings, and how they’ve inspired you in your vocation to the Priesthood.
My Father was a good mechanic and my mother stopped working in order to care for all five children. I have an elder sister, elder brother, younger sister and a younger brother. I am the third child in the family. Daily family prayer in the evening is a must at home. We will all wait for daddy to be back from work and we will all pray together. After that we will all sit together for our evening supper. Once, at an evening supper, my elder brother announced that instead of becoming a priest he would like to work as a mechanic with daddy. I immediately announced, “ I’ll be the priest!” and the following year I joined the minor seminary.

What about your Seminary formation?
I told my spiritual director about plans to join the Foreign Missions of Paris. (MEP — Missions Etrangeres de Paris). But before joining the MEP, I was asked to give one year of service to my diocese by teaching History and Geography to Form 3 students in a college at the Sables d’ olonne. After that I joined the Foreign Missions of Paris. After one year in Paris, I was sent to Rome, to the Gregorian University to complete my last two years in the Major Seminary. Then I was asked to prolong one more year for a license in Theology. I was ordained priest on 2nd April, 1956 and at the age of 26, I left France for Malaysia, where I was sent by my superiors of Paris ‘for life’. I remained 57years in Malaysia. I am now 83 years old.

You came to Malaysia in 1957, could you share some of your feelings or discoveries when you first came to an unknown place (Malaysia) for mission…
In October 1957, I arrived in Kuala Lumpur. I was then asked to learn English language for one year. After that I was asked by my bishop to go to India to learn Tamil for two years. I was 18 months in India, when the KL Bishop called me to come back to KL to help replace a Tamil speaking priest who fell very sick. I started to serve at St. Joseph’s Sentul for 4 years. Later I became the Parish Priest of Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields in the heart of KL. After almost eight years in Malaysia, I went back home to France for my first home leave.

The first local bishop of Kuala Lumpur, Msgr Dominic Vendargon who was attending Vatican II invited me to come to Rome to join in the last sessions of Vatican II — Nov-Dec 1965. Then I was six months in France to give some conferences on pastoral work in Malaysia. I was truly energized and inspired by all these unexpected invitations by my KL Bishop. Other than English and Tamil, I also learned Bahasa, (BM language) for three months in Indonesia (Permatang Siantar).

You had served in about 10 parishes as the Parish Priest, can you tell us your greatest joy in these years of your priesthood?
I was given a chance to remain for 10 and-a-half years in Seremban Parish. I served at Visitation Seremban from January 1957 to June 1967 which had 4,000 Tamil-speaking parishioners. Seremban, at that time, was the most significant parish in the KL Archdiocese, and I enjoyed remaining and working there for a long time. From 1958, besides caring for the 2,000 Tamil speaking in the town, there were also another 2,000 Tamil speaking people in the estates, (25 km around Seremban town, eg. Rembau, Majorie and Nilai). Besides caring for the Catholics, I also organized the Persatuan Kemajuan Rakyat, a social movement helping the Tamil speaking people. Seremban Parish was a great place, a parish I served well.

You had so far, served under three Archbishops of KL, could you share briefly about these shepherds and how they had motivated your Pastoral duties?
For the first 25 years, I was very privileged to serve under the leadership of Archbishop Dominic Vendargon (1957 – 1982). He had invited and accepted me into his diocese, and allowed me to learn English while at St John’s Cathedral where I helped out with some pastoral work. He had also very wonderfully arranged for me a trip to Salem in India. At Attur, I was to learn the Tamil Language for two years under the supervision of Fr Hermanns. He had so much confidence in me. I just completed 18 months learning Tamil when Archbishop Vendargon called me to come back immediately to replace Fr Swaminathan who fell sick in Sentul. The Archbishop also had invited me to join him in the last few sessions of Vatican II in Rome at the end of 1965. After that, he sent me back to France to have some conferences with the people there to share on my pastoral work in Malaysia. My postings in both Seremban 1967-77(10 yrs) and in Tampin 1977-87 (10 yrs) were those GLORIOUS YEARS of my pastoral work and involvements especially in the Estates among the Catholics and the non-Christians as well. I will never forget those moments. I thank God for this great opportunity. Thanks also to Archbishop Vendargon.

Archbishop Soter Fernandez brought me back into KL to serve as Parish Priest of St Anthony’s Church KL. He is a very good friend who never forgets to call and visit me. He was 20 years my Archbishop and I must thank God for the work we did together especially in the team of “Five loaves and Two Fishes” responsible for the start of BECs in Peninsular Malaysia — Aggiornamento 1976.

I must thank Archbishop Murphy Pakiam for the last posting as Parish Priest at Risen Christ, Jalan Ipoh (2003 to 2007) after which I retired and have been in Sentul, Klang and now in Kajang. Archbishop Murphy has been always listening to what I share and had always spoken about home visits and its importance. As young priests, we seem to have received a tough training under some strict missionaries who inspired much and gave us rich pastoral experiences. Thank you Archbishop Pakiam for kindly accepting my request to return to France.

The parishes he served

1957 – 1958 St. John’s Cathedral (three years
1958 – 1960 in India
1960 – 1964 St Joseph’s Church, Sentul (four years)
1964 – 1965 Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields (1 year)
1965 – France for Conference (Jan to June) Rome, Vatican 2 (Nov and Dec) First vacation in France for three months (July 1, 1965 to Jun 1966) (1 year)
1966 – Sacred Heart Church, Peel Road (July 1 to Sept 30) (6 months) St Thomas Church, Kuantan (Oct 1 to Dec 31) (3 months)
1967 – 1977 Visitation Church, Seremban (Jan 1, 1967 to June 1977) (10½ years)
1977 – 1987 Church of St. John Vianney, Tampin (10 years)
1987 – 1997 St Anthony’s Church, Kuala Lumpur (10 years)
1997 – 2001 St Jude’s Church, Rawang (until Nov 26, 2001) (five years) (after heart attack was in Singapore for three months)
2002 – 2003 Holy Rosary Church, KL and visited Puchong for 11
2003 – 2007 Church of The Risen Christ, Kuala Lumpur (four years)
2007 – 2011 Retired in Sentul (four years)
2011 – 2014 Retired in Kajang (three years)

NB : From 1980 to 2010, 11 vacations (every 3 years) On June 12, 2014, Fr Peter leaves for France for good.

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