Father Peter J. Halligan, MM

Born: April 16, 1924
Ordained: June 13, 1953
Died: September 30, 1987

Father Peter Joseph Halligan died at Lenox Hill Hospital on September 30, 1987.

Peter was born in the Bronx, N.Y. on April 16, 1924 into a very religious Catholic family, son of Joseph P. and Mary Rose Torpy Halligan. Two members of the family, his father and a brother, were policemen, one brother a Jesuit priest, two sisters nuns and two married sisters with families. Before entering Maryknoll he had varied educational opportunities and experiences. His early education was in St. John Chrysostom Parochial School, Xavier High and Fordham University in New York City. During World War II he attended the Naval Flight Preparation School at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy and the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School, North Western U., Evanston, Ill. He was a good student and usually in the upper third of his class. He served as a naval communications officer for 39 months overseas duty in Guam and Japan. After discharge from the Navy he joined the New York City Police Dept. He resigned from that Department in order to enter Maryknoll in 1947.

Father Halligan was ordained a priest at Maryknoll on June 13, 1953 and was assigned to the Peru Region the same year. From the beginning he grew into an excellent missioner serving for 20 years as a pastor to people in and around Puno. He was the specially loved pastor of San Juan Bautista Parish in Puno and shepherded the parish until it was turned over to two Peruvian priests. There he built a much-needed parochial school. He took an active interest in the Peruvian clergy and was effective working with them. The record shows that he did much building up the Church in the Altiplano of Peru. He was sensitive to the plight of the poor and underprivileged, both in Puno and Lima. Many tears will be shed when they hear of his death.

He was highly esteemed by his superiors. One after another wrote of him as a calm personality, dependable, with good judgment and a sense of humor. One said: “He gets along well with others and is very practical with good common sense. He was pleasant to live with.” Maryknollers in Peru elected him as Assistant Regional Superior on two separate occasions. One superior said: “In the Region Pete was very much a Maryknoll man–strongly loyal, and he created a good spirit among the group. He was a compassionate person, sensitive to the needs of other Maryknollers. He had an almost intuitive sense of mission and strong supportive sense to new movements with the mission.” He often commented in Society meetings during the last 20 years that the surprising directions that came out of Chapters were major missionary thrusts for the Society. He felt that the bringing of students into the Regions for part of their formation and education created a vitality for rejuvenating Regions both in spirit and theology. He was supportive of Lay Missioners as an opportunity for the Society to accompany the Church in opening up to the new issues of mission that challenge us and the Church for the rest of this century.

Fr. Halligan was transferred from Puno to Lima in 1974 as a staff member of the ecumenical news weekly Noticias Aliadas, titled in English as Latin America Press, which focused on human rights issues in Peru and dealt with Church news throughout Latin America. A co-worker said that he was an acute observer, a clever writer and a good reporter, even though he had no previous journalistic training or experience.

During the last ten years of his life he was afflicted with much illness and, like St. Paul, he had his cross of suffering to bear. In 1980 he was appointed Assistant Regional Superior and in 1982 as Director of the Center House in Lima. As a side job he engaged in the prison ministry and Alcoholics Anonymous work in Lima. It is said that he had a deep compassion for the prisoners and that he became very self-confident and happy in the work with them. He was sensitive to the terrible dehumanizing conditions into which prisoners were thrust and would spend whole days in the prison with them, often without food; and then return home exhausted in the evening. His own pastoral approach flowed out of a sense of a call for justice and peace in attempting to build the Kingdom of God. Serious illness finally forced him to return to the States in September of 1987 and he entered Lenox Hill Hospital.

The Wake Service was conducted in the Center Chapel on October 1, by Fr. Bernard P. Byrne. The Scripture selection was read by Sister Mary Rose Halligan and the Biography by Fr. Joseph Arsenault. A Mass of Christian Burial was offered on the next day with Fr. John Halligan as Principal Celebrant. Scripture was read by Sister Kathleen Halligan, Father Robert Kearns giving the Homily. Graveside ceremony was conducted by Fr. John Geitner.