Father Joseph Peek Obituary
December 2004 Father Joseph Michael Peek photos

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In Memory of

Father Joseph Michael Peek

August 9, 1965 - March 14, 2016
Obituary

Father Joseph Michael Peek ("Father Joe") was born on 9 August 1965, in Corpus Christi, Texas. He survived a miraculous birth in dire condition; he was seven weeks early, black from lack of oxygen, and baptized by the doctor because of danger of death. After a brief stop in Amityville, NY, he and his soon-to-be ten siblings grew up in a bustling Irish Catholic family in the Northlake area of Atlanta. At home, daily reminders of his family's Catholic faith surrounded Father Joe. A five-foot tall crucifix hung in the family's living room behind a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, before which the family would pray the rosary nightly. His...
Father Joseph Michael Peek ("Father Joe") was born on 9 August 1965, in Corpus Christi, Texas. He survived a miraculous birth in dire condition; he was seven weeks early, black from lack of oxygen, and baptized by the doctor because of danger of death. After a brief stop in Amityville, NY, he and his soon-to-be ten siblings grew up in a bustling Irish Catholic family in the Northlake area of Atlanta.

At home, daily reminders of his family's Catholic faith surrounded Father Joe. A five-foot tall crucifix hung in the family's living room behind a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, before which the family would pray the rosary nightly. His parents, Mary and Joseph Peek, emphasized the importance of serving others, and encouraged each of their children to serve their parish and to live their faith on a daily basis.
As a child, Father Joe began his service to his church as an altar server at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Even at a young age, Father Joe developed a reputation for looking out for outcasts, long before bullying became such a widespread topic of concern. He was the one who noticed the kid sitting alone at the cafeteria table or soccer field and befriended them. As a soccer referee, he had the reputation for throwing a disruptive player out of a game for misconduct; however, once the game was over, he sought out the player he had removed from the game and scrimmaged with him. He taught himself magic tricks to allow him to entertain, mesmerize, and teach both young and old alike.
Father Joe's journey to priesthood was not a direct one.
After graduating from Lakeside High School in DeKalb County (class of 1983), he attended the Georgia Institute of Technology on a Naval ROTC scholarship. He entered the Navy in the late 1980s and served three years as a Search & Rescue swimmer, and anti-submarine air crewman, dipping sonar on board an SH-63 helicopter. He also worked as a substitute teacher and a waiter at Outback Steakhouse. But he kept feeling a pull toward the priesthood and decided to go to seminary with the hopes of becoming a Navy chaplain.
He then spent three years with the Oblates of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Boston, attending St. John's Seminary. Coming back to diocesan life, he spent two years at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania, and finished up his last two years at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Maryland.
And then, one day in 2002, Father Joe, who as a Navy rescue swimmer was known for his physical endurance and strength, couldn't reach the top of a hill during his daily run at seminary, where he regularly "tagged" Jesus on the cross.
In February 2002, just months shy of his ordination, Father Joe was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. This was the beginning of years and years of severe pain, and ever-so-slow improvements, mixed with setbacks.

Despite his diagnosis, he completed his studies and was ordained to the priesthood on June 22, 2002, by Archbishop John F. Donoghue.

In October 2003, Father Joe received a bone marrow transplant from his sister Kathleen, and while doctors believed the transplant effectively cured Father Joe of the cancer, the procedure created a new series of life-threatening health concerns.

Suffering from what is known as "graft-versus-host disease," the new immune system attacked Father Joe's body. The illness ravaged his organs one-by-one, ultimately affecting his flesh-beginning with his back, always invisible to the public, but massive and raw, and often irritated by hugs he never mentioned were an affliction. Over time, the wounds extended from his face and neck to his feet, challenging his life-long ambition of serving as a priest. Open wounds scarred more than 70% of his body, including the soles of his feet. The sores on his body made a good night's sleep elusive as lying in one spot for a couple of hours resulted in excruciating pain for Father Joe. His bandages on his wounds had to be changed three times a week, and even then several times he contracted MRSA. In 2008, he became septic and almost died.

Despite his life threatening illness, Father Joe asked for and received parish assignments at St. Catherine of Siena, Kennesaw; Sts. Peter & Paul Parish, Decatur; Mary Our Queen, Norcross; and All Saints Church, Dunwoody. However, his parish assignments, while important to Father Joe, became a small part of his ministry as a priest. Father Joe believed that as a priest he needed to be a visible presence of Christ to others. More importantly, Father Joe believed his experience as a patient put him in a special category of priests, and he felt a need to minister to fellow patients at Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute and others within Atlanta's Catholic community. Father Joe became the spiritual advisor to the sickest of the sick. He would regularly visit with patients in the hospital--even though such visits threatened his own health, since his body was covered with open wounds that left him susceptible to infections. He also developed a large on-line ministry, which he would attend to as much as his strength and health would allow.

In 2012, he developed squamous cell carcinoma, which turned several of his wounds into growing lesions. Father Joe had a few procedures to remove these lesions, but eventually, they spread to his lymph nodes. He was told by his doctors in December 2014 that there was nothing more they could do.

On March 14, 2016, Father Joe, surrounded by the songs and prayers his parents and siblings, drew his last breath, completed his life on earth, and began his eternal life with Christ. Father Joseph Peek is survived by his parents, Mary and Joseph of Atlanta, his ten siblings, and his thirty-nine nieces and nephews.

The Wake and Viewing will be held all night on Thursday, March 17, starting at 7pm at All Saints Catholic Church, where Father Joe was in residence: 2443 Mount Vernon Road, Atlanta, GA 30338.

The Funeral Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory at All Saints Catholic Church on Friday, March 18, at 11am. Fr. Kevin Peek, the brother of Fr. Joe, will be the homilist. A reception will follow in the parish social hall.

Father Joe's burial will be at Georgia National Cemetery, 1080 Veterans Cemetery Road, Canton, GA 30114 on Monday, March 21, at 11:30 am.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to either Post Abortion Treatment and Healing (PATH), a ministry near and dear to the heart of Father Joe, or to the Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Family, 510 East Gore Road, Erie, PA 16509, (814-825-0846) where Father Joe's sister is a religious sister.

Condolences and cards may be sent to:
Ms. Mary Elkins for the Peek Family, 2401 Lake Park Drive, SE, Smyrna, GA 30080.

"To all the Peek family my prayers and condolences. Word of your Fr. Joe's death was sent in a letter by Bill Foley. Know you will grieve in God's arms. ..." Ann Howard (Tucson, AZ)

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution
PEEK, Joseph Michael Father Joseph Michael Peek ("Father Joe") was born on 9 August 1965. On March 14, 2016, Father Joe, surrounded by the songs...

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution
PEEK, Father Joseph M. Passed away March 14, 2016. Wake and Services 11 AM March 18, at All Saints Catholic Church. Winkenhofer Pine Ridge F.H.

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