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Fr Peter Weiss, SSJ, head of campus ministry at St Augustine High in New Orleans, dead at 70

A Josephite known for his service to St Augustine High and the local community, has passed away suddenly in New Orleans.

(Twitter/St Augustine High School)

Fr Peter Weiss, SSJ, a pastor in New Orleans educator at St Augustine High School, has died at the age of 70. Multiple sources have confirmed that the priest took his own life.

The pastor of All Saints Catholic Church since 2014, Weiss recently celebrated 42 years as a priest in the Society of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart (also known as the Josephites), the nation's only male religious community founded to serve African Americans.

He was found dead at the parish on Wednesday morning.

“The St. Augustine High School community is devastated by the news of the passing,” said campus minister Fr Rodney “Tony” Ricard in a statement released by the school that evening, and later reposted on the Josephites’ Facebook page.

“It is our collective prayer that through the Mercy of God, our beloved Fr. Weiss is now resting with God in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Full statement from Fr Ricard on Weiss' death.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Weiss was a graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana and the Washington Theological Union, and was ordained for the Josephites in 1979. He later served throughout the society’s geographical footprint, including in Alabama, Texas, Washington DC, and Louisiana. He was also formerly the Josephites’ vocations director.

Weiss first arrived at St Augustine High in 1991, joining the faculty of the historic Black Catholic school founded by the Josephites in 1951. Shortly thereafter, he also began his first stint as pastor of All Saints.

After a number of years away following Hurricane Katrina, he returned to the parish and school in 2014.

During his time at St Augustine, he taught theology and was also at one point director of the color guard for the Marching 100, the school’s historic student band. He was the group’s chaplain for more than 16 years prior to his death.

He began service as the school’s chief religious officer in August 2020, supervising the St Augustine campus ministry and serving as “the direct link” between the school and the Josephite society.

In that role, he also led the students’ annual trip north for a tour of the Underground Railroad, which in prior years also involved a culminating visit to Washington DC for the March for Life. This year’s trip was scheduled to occur in the coming weeks.

Outside of his church and school, Weiss maintained links with the local community as a chaplain for the New Orleans branch of the FBI, as well as the local police and fire departments.

Funeral services have been announced by the Josephites for Wednesday, January 19th at All Saints.

The Mass of Christian Burial will begin at 10am CT, with visitation beforehand beginning at 7:30. Interment will take place at St. Louis Cemetery #3.

The school is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the school here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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