Peter’s father was a respected chief and village leader. Both his parents were converts to Catholicism. Peter attended Catholic missionary schools and at age 18 was sent to Catechist School. At 21 he returned to Rakunai and became the youngest catechist. Blessed Peter taught catechism to the village children, instructed adults in the faith and visited the sick.
At 22 he married Paula Ia Varpit. The couple had three children, one of whom was born after Peter’s death. The marriage was not only happy but exemplary—the couple prayed together every morning and evening.
In 1942 the Japanese invaded Papua New Guinea and put all priests and religious into prison. Because of this, Peter took on many new pastoral responsibilities, such as witnessing marriages, baptizing newborns, and presiding at funerals.
Although the Japanese did not outlaw all Catholic practices at first, they soon reintroduced polygamy in Papua New Guinea in hopes of gaining the support of several local chiefs. Peter To Rot opposed the legalization of polygamy, and continued to preach the Catholic teaching on marriage.
Because of his opposition, he was imprisoned and then murdered in 1945. He was given a chief’s burial at the cemetery next to the church where he had ministered. His people immediately recognized him as a martyr for the faith.
Pope John Paul II beatified Peter To Rot on January 17, 1995.
Sometimes people think that teaching and witnessing to the faith is primarily the work of priests and religious. Peter To Rot showed that God calls all the baptized to evangelize—and, moreover, that this call is perfectly compatible with the call to marriage and family life.