Family, friends and colleagues of Father Thomas Peterman are preparing for his funeral Mass on Tuesday, Aug. 10 at 11 a.m. at Holy Cross Church in Dover.
The author and historian died Aug. 3 at the age of 90 and after 64 years as a priest in the Diocese of Wilmington.
With a passion for the history of the diocese and lifelong commitment to education, Father Peterman is described by those who knew him as a man who loved the priesthood and had a strong desire to continue learning.
Father John Hynes is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena in Wilmington where Father Peterman was in residence the last 11 years. He said he admired Father Peterman’s dedication to chronicling the diocese, which included several volumes on the history of the diocese and others on priests of the diocese.
“He was a great conversationalist,” Father Hynes said. “He was just a good parish priest.”
Father Hynes pointed out that Father Peterman served at many parishes throughout the diocese as well as serving as a teacher and administrator in various schools.
“He loved education,” Father Hynes said. “He was an educator. He had a quite a few alumni who kept in touch with him. I was impressed by that.”
Describing him as a raconteur, Father Hynes said Father Peterman loved being a priest and appreciated being part of a rectory and parish. He said in his last few years, he spent more time listening to music, especially opera and the religious greats.
“He had lots of delightful stories,” Father Hynes said. “No other priest in the diocese had an interest in the history of the diocese the way he did.”
A native of Delaware, Father Peterman had been the former pastor of Saint Dennis, Galena, Md. He had also been pastor at Sacred Heart, Chestertown, Md., Holy Cross, Dover, Saint Mary Magdalen, Wilmington, and Good Shepherd, Perryville, Md. He had also served on the faculty of Corpus Christi High School and was principal of Holy Cross High School and Saint Elizabeth High School. He was ordained in 1957.
Retired priest Father John Kavanaugh was also ordained in 1957 and is the last remaining priest in the diocese from that ordination year. He said he and Father Peterman never served together on assignment but crossed paths many times over the years during various school and parish assignments.
Father John Solomon, pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea and Holy Savior in Ocean City, Md., said he got to know Father Peterman as a young priest and seminarian in part because his family lives near St. Catherine of Siena parish.
“He was always very supportive of young priests and seminarians and I was always very appreciative of that,” Father Solomon said. “He had done a lot of research, had a lot of stories. That takes a lot of legwork and a lot of time to put in. He had a natural interest in it.
Father Peterman completed his latest book, “John James Monaghan, D.D.: Third Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington” in December 2019. It was the ninth book he authored.
The diocese is working on adequate internet access at Holy Cross to allow the funeral Mass to be livestreamed on the diocesan YouTube channel – YouTube.com/DioceseofWilm.