Peter counts his blessings as he turns 80

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Peter counts his blessings as he turns 80

In his monthly series of reflections, Deacon Peter Coates from Woodbridge reflects on a long life and counting his blessings as he celebrates his 80th birthday.

At the risk of seeming to write my own obituary, I am reflecting on a very long life and “counting my blessings”. 

I was declared dead for the first time when a baby during the winter of 1941/2.  I survived pneumonia and was treated as delicate until I went to the village school a year early because I was an avid reader, living in a care home where my mother worked. 

So I thank God for my life and my survival.  I also thank Him for many other survival occasions involving cycling, swimming and car accidents during my first 30 years. 

I have recently read the most amazing story of survival in the two volumes by Fr Walter Ciszek SJ – “With God in Russia” and “He leadeth me”.  For him the 1941/2 winter was the beginning of his five-year imprisonment, torture and 15 years hard labour in Siberia.  He always wanted to be a missionary to Russia and believed that it was God’s providence that took him there for 23 years of pain and hardship. 

Already Fr Ciszek has taught me a great deal and I learn daily more of that same providence.  I am not in Fr Ciszek’s league and I pray daily for his canonisation.  I always wanted to be a missionary to the poor as I told my mother when I was eight years old. 

In the providence of God, I have been able to make a contribution in that direction during most of my working life but my dream came true when, with my brave family, I lived and worked in the former soviet republic of Moldova.  Kathleen and I were able to exercise both a teaching and a practical ministry in what was then seen as the poorest country in Europe. 

The vision of the Apostolic Administrator, Mons Anton Cosa, was a clear demonstration of the way God wanted us to work.  We were able to set up a Catechetical Institute to help teach the Faith.  We were able to set up a network of cantina to provide hot meals for children as they came home from school. 

There was a sovietic tower block in our village which was known as “Titanic” because it was an unsinkable disaster.  Among other projects, it provoked us to install individual water and gas meters in the flats.  In co-operation with both Church and State, roads were tarmacked and play areas made safe.  God’s providence has led us, as it did Fr Ciszek.  Thanks be to God.

Peter spent 15 years as a Methodist minister before European Education and Training projects in Portugal (where he converted), Hungary, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova where he lived and worked for over six years. He was the first permanent deacon ordained in the former Soviet Union in the Diocese of Chisinau, Moldova.

Picture by Pixabay.