Fr. Timothy Peters, S.T.D., is an assistant professor of biblical studies at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, which serves the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as well as other dioceses, including the Diocese of Orange, for which he was ordained a priest in 2003. While providing assistance at the Orange Diocese’s St. Joachim Church in Costa Mesa this summer, Fr. Peters launched a free, online Gospel of John Bible study through Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry’s Facebook Live platform. It is an early step in a plan to develop an online commentary for each book of the Bible for ordinary Catholics who want to incorporate Scripture reading and Scripture-inspired prayer into their daily lives.
Fr. Peters grew up in Fountain Valley as part of a devout Catholic family; for decades his family has operated Catholic Books & Gifts in Fountain Valley in an effort to encourage Catholics to study the faith more fully and to cultivate a devotional life of prayer in their homes. His decision to enter seminary, he says, was part of “a personal conversion story in which I resolved to seek the love of Christ above all things in my life.” After learning about “the beauty and truth of our Catholic faith,” he believed God was calling him to become a diocesan priest.
After his ordination, Fr. Peters served as a parochial vicar at parishes in the Diocese of Orange before being sent to Rome to continue his studies. He completed a License in Biblical Theology (S.T.L.) at the Gregorian University and earned a doctorate in biblical theology (S.T.D.) from the Angelicum University in Rome He has taught at St. John’s Seminary since 2016, and assists in his home diocese as his schedule allows.
Fr. Peters recently spoke with CWR about the priesthood, his love of Scripture, and his online Bible studies.
CWR: First, how is to be a priest these days?
Fr. Timothy Peters: I love being a priest. I believe it is my calling. I love every part of it, whether it be praying with families, making hospital visits, teaching in the seminary or celebrating the liturgy. I believe I have been blessed by God, and I’m doing exactly what He wants me to do.
CWR: Have the recent Church scandals, such as those involving the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, gotten you down?
Fr. Peters: It’s been discouraging, to say the least. It indicates to me that there is some sort of major spiritual battle going on in the Church. What was most upsetting about the McCarrick situation was that some appeared to be aware of inappropriate behavior on the part of the former prelate but for whatever reason nearly everyone chose to say nothing about it. There is a reason why Christ used the image of a millstones being cast into the sea and related this to scandal (Matt 18:6: Luke 17:2). I am encouraged by the many changes that have recently taken place.
CWR: Do you miss serving in a parish full-time?
Fr. Peters: I’m still in the parishes, both at St. Joachim’s and Our Lady of La Vang in Santa Ana. It is my vocation, first and foremost, to be in the parishes as a diocesan priest. But I think we’ve come to learn that it is better to have diocesan priests working in the seminaries forming future diocesan priests. We know our parishes, we know how to establish a good spirituality and we know our presbyterate, so we’re able to better prepare future candidates for the diocesan priesthood.
CWR: How are the seminarians you’re teaching?
Fr. Peters: We’re seeing some good candidates, both from Los Angeles and Orange, as well as San Bernardino and some of the other places we serve. I am continually reminded that if we want to attract good men to the seminary, we diocesan priests have to promote vocations by living an authentic spirituality as diocesan priests.
When I meet men interested in the priesthood, the first thing I like to ask is, “Do you feel you have a call to share the Gospel with others?” Because as priests, above all things, we have to be responding to a call to share the Gospel with others while living a life of celibacy. In the modern Church, we have often not asked that question, so we may see men who go on to be priests but do not know how to share the Gospel with others. You can tell when such a man is ordained; something is wrong with his preaching and his spirituality. He may be responding to some individual call of his own, but not a call to share the Gospel with others. That is key.
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