Br Peter Tullis, a lay brother, was born in Italy in 1920 and professed Simple Vows in 1958. He has lived in many different fraternities over his many years. He has cooked for the friars, been porter, sacristan and questor. He currently resides at Leichhardt and keeps himself busy with looking after the garden of the Maddona. He is noted for his prayerfulness. The biography below was written in the mid-2000's.
Peter was born in the region of Friuli, in the North of Italy, on the 1st of November of 1920. He was born in a little village called Mediusa, about 24km outside the city of Udine. Peter had three brothers; Peter being the youngest is now the only surviving member of his immediate family.
His father worked in the little farms doing different jobs and in the timber and furniture factories famous to this day in the area. His father also worked in Austria and France and would have to spend many months away from home, only returning in the wintertime. There are a lot of small factories in the area making tables and chairs for export all over Europe.
Peter went to school to grade four, then worked in the fields himself and the small furniture factories making tables and chairs. When he was 19 years old he joined the Italian army and worked in the army base bakery making the daily bread for his fellow soldiers.
When the war started Peter was assigned to Yugoslavia. It was in Yugoslavia that Peter was captured as a prisoner of war by the German army, and sent to Denmark where he stayed as prisoner until the end of the war. It took the prisoners nearly four weeks to be transported to Denmark by train. This was due to the fact that it was near the end of the war and the rail system in Europe had been devastated through the war. Many times they would come to a bridge that had been destroyed by bombs and had to double back and find an alternative route. It was a long and hard journey. In Denmark, as a prisoner of war, he had to work for the German army. He worked in the fields during the day but at night the prisoners were locked up. At the end of the war, Peter returned to Italy and his village of Mediusa where he resumed working in the furniture factory.
In June of 1952 he migrated to Australia. He arrived in the migrant camp at Bonegilla, located in the Riverina between Victoria and New South Wales, where he remained for two months. Life in the camp was a matter of waiting for a job. Peter tells the story of how 10 or 20 of the young men in the camp would go out hunting for rabbits, which would have been plentiful in the area. Having no guns or traps they had to improvise the best they could. Out the back of the camp they would walk together in a line until they flushed out a rabbit which they would catch with their bare hands. It made a welcome change to the food in the camp.
It was not long before Peter got a job working on a farm, also helping out at times as a builder. It was at this time that a Salesian priest asked him if he wanted to join the Salesians. Prior to this he had not thought about becoming a priest or religious. However, the priest had put the thought in Peter's mind. Peter waited and thought to himself, if it is the will of God that he wants me to be a priest or religious, there will surely be more signs.
He later saw an advert in the Italian Migrants’ paper, La Fiamma, from the migrant chaplain, Fr Nazario, advertising that he was available for any migrants that may need help in anyway. Peter thought he better go and talk to an Italian priest about his vocation first. Off he went to Carlton in Melbourne and met with Fr Nazario. After listening to Peter's story he decided to take him to meet the Capuchins in Hawthorn. Peter met the Guardian of Hawthorn, Fr Anastase. Fr Anastase was keen for Peter to join the Capuchins straight away, but Peter wasn't so certain. He was not sure if it was the right vocation for him so he decided to wait. Peter continued to work for a couple of years more as he thought about his vocation.
Fr Ladislao, who was the vocation director at the time, continued to keep in contact with Peter through regular letters. Peter also kept in contact with the friars in Hawthorn, visiting them every few months and sometimes staying with them for a few days. Finally Peter thought to himself that he must make a decision soon. He said to himself, "If a letter arrives again within a couple of weeks it must be the will of God". Sure enough within a couple of weeks another letter arrived from the Vocation director inviting Peter to join the Capuchins. He responded with a ‘yes’ and prepared to enter the Capuchins.
Peter entered the Capuchins in Hawthorn, Melbourne, just before Christmas in 1955. Eight others joined with him. Of the eight, four went on to be professed Capuchins, Fr. Felix, Fr. Patrick and Br. Stan, with Br. Peter. He did his novitiate in Melbourne as well. The novices lived in a new wing at the back of the big house. He made his profession at the end of his novitiate.
After Novitiate he was sent to Leichhardt for a few months. While he was in Leichhardt he helped in the sacristy and many other things: shopping, and some cooking on the weekends. Later, Fr. Boniface called him back to Hawthorn. In Hawthorn he cooked everyday for the friars. After four years he was transferred to Plumpton for three years. Then Brisbane. In fact during his religious life Peter has worked in every house the Order has had in Australia except Yoogali in Griffiths NSW. Perth, ten years. He spent time in Halifax in northern Queensland.
Peter has been living in the Leichhardt friary for the last sixteen years, he has retired from cooking and working in the sacristy now, but still likes cleaning around the church and the friary. Needless to say, he is a great asset to our community. His life of prayer is an example for us. He remains possibly the best cook we have ever had in the province especially in being able to whip up a tasty meal in no time at all.
We wish Peter God’s blessings on his 50th Anniversary of profession and thank him for the years of service he has dedicated to the Australian Province.