Blessed Peter To Rot
Matryr for Marriage
Peter was born in Rakunai, New Britain, an island off the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea, in 1912. His parents were Angelo To Puia, a village chief, and Maria la Tumul, adult converts who were part of this region’s first Catholics.
A pious young man, Peter had an intense prayer life and received Communion daily. At the age of 18, he became a a lay catechist and ministered to the people of his own village. He frequently quoted the Bible and carried it everywhere with him.
In 1936, at the age of 24, he married Paula la Varpit, who was also Catholic. The couple had three children: Andrea, who died after the war; a little girl, Rufina La Mama, who is still alive; and the third child (name unknown), who was born soon after Peter’s death in 1945 and died a short time later.
In 1942, the Japanese invaded the island and arrested all the missionaries and their staff, housing them in concentration camps. Peter continued to lead the village as best as he could, caring for the sick, Baptising and teaching the faithful, helping the poor. He assisted other catechists who were confused by the changes brought about by the Japanese.
When the war began to go against them, the Japanese began to repress the locals, banning all forms of worship. They had imagined that the people were praying for the defeat of the Japanese. They tried to get the people to return to their pre-Christian ways, legalizing polygamy. Any resistance to the law was a punishable offense. Peter openly opposed the regulations, and was arrested in 1945 for conducting religious gatherings. Imprisoned in a cave, he was so well known, supported and beloved by those who knew him that he was a source of strength to his people, and of annoyance to his captors. On July 7, 1945, Peter was murdered by his captors and died as a martyr for the faith.
Pope John Paul ll beatified Peter in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on January 17, 1995 declaring the heroic virtue of the devout catechist.
“I am here because of those who broke their marriage vows and because of those who do not want the growth of God’s kingdom”.
~ St. Peter ToRot, referring to his imprisonment, from From L’Osservatore Romano, 25 January 1995