|Brother Peter Joseph Gautsch, O.P. makes his solemn profession of vows to Father Ken Letoile, O.P., the Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph. Brother Peter, a native of Gallatin, Tenn. and a graduate of Pope John Paul II High School, joined the Dominican order four years ago and is on track to be ordained a priest in 2018.
By making his solemn vows last month, Brother Peter Joseph Gautsch, O.P., made a new pledge to join one of the oldest religious orders in the world. Brother Peter, a Gallatin native, made his solemn vows as a Dominican brother on Jan. 30, pledging eternal fidelity to the 800-year-old Order of Preachers.
Brother Peter, formerly Chris Gautsch, a member of the Pope John Paul II High School Class of 2007, is currently studying theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., as he prepares for ordination as a Dominican priest in 2018.
Brother Peter sums up his reason for joining the Order in his online biography: “I became a Dominican Friar to live a more profound union with Christ in a community of brothers and to preach, following in the steps of St. Dominic, the Preacher of Grace; in short, I entered the Order for my sanctification and that of my neighbor.”
Brother Peter is a member of the Province of Saint Joseph, which is among the fastest growing communities of men’s religious orders in the United States. They currently have more than 70 men in formation, pushing their houses near capacity. At his House of Studies in Washington, Brother Peter lives and studies with about 80 other men, including student brothers and priests.
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where he studied theology and piano performance, Brother Peter has long had a passion for Scripture and music. In the Dominican order, he found the perfect niche for himself.
The first time Brother Peter encountered the Dominican Friars, while studying at the Angelicum in Rome, he was struck by what “bright, holy men” they were. A religious vocation had been in the back of his mind for some time, but “that’s when God ramped up the hints that I should consider religious life,” he said.
He entered the order in August 2011 and took his first vows one year later. Since then, Brother Peter has had an opportunity to explore a variety of ministries. He is currently teaching adult catechesis at a Washington, D.C., parish; in the past he worked in a soup kitchen and a hospital, on a college campus and visited people in their homes. “A priest needs to learn a large spectrum of things,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of good experiences.”
Brother Peter can’t predict where he will ultimately be assigned once he is ordained a priest, but does like the idea of working in campus ministry. “The charism of the Dominicans is to teach and preach,” he noted. College campuses are one of the places where “people are really asking the big questions and Dominicans are well equipped to answer, with an emphasis on mercy and grace.”
With his musical background, Brother Peter plays the organ to accompany the Friars’ Liturgy of the Hours about three times a week, and shares a love of music with a number of his fellow brothers. “There’s a lot of musically talented brothers here,” he said, and some get together to play jazz and bluegrass music in their free time. Brother Peter has even played at a regional music festival while dressed in his habit. “It definitely turned some heads,” he said with a laugh.
The oldest of eight children, Brother Peter maintains a strong relationship with his family, members of St. John Vianney Parish in Gallatin. He visits Middle Tennessee about twice a year, and his family visits him as well. “The family of each of the brothers becomes a family of all the brothers,” he said. “It’s a really great thing.”
Founded by St. Dominic in 1216, the Dominican Friars continue his tradition through prayer, study, fraternity, and preaching. They serve in universities, parishes, international missions, military chaplaincies, and the media, dedicating their lives to spreading the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.