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Atlanta family watches papal transition with multilayered interest

8:41 AM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
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Three of the Peek family's 11 children work for the Catholic Church. The family will watch the transition in Rome with more interest than most.

ATLANTA -- Catholicism runs deep at the home of the Peeks. In their 51 years together, Mary and Joseph Peek begat 11 children, whose photos hang in their home alongside photos of Pope John Paul II.

As we visited, Joe Peek was drinking tea from a coffee cup featuring Pope Benedict XVI, who will leave the papacy at the end of the month.

Here, the pope is more than a remote figurehead living in a distant place. He is the living link to the birth of Christianity, and a guide to the family's daily lives.

"He leads in faith and morals," said Peek. "We look to him for guidance, as well we should."

To the Peeks, the pope is also known as the boss. Three of Mr. and Mrs. Peek's 11 offspring are vocationally tied to the Catholic Church. Their firstborn son, Father Joseph Peek, is a priest in Dunwoody. His brother, Father Kevin Peek, is a National Guard Chaplain and leads the Catholic Center at Georgia Tech. He expects no seismic shift at the Vatican.

"We're a church of principles not personalities," said Father Peek. "While the principles are taught, the personality helps to motivate and encourage."

The family got first-hand encouragement during three pilgrimages to see Pope John Paul II during his visits to North America, shortly after his election in 1978.

Three years after that, the eldest of Mary and Joseph's 11 children became Sister Mary Agnes, a nun now living in a cloistered convent in South Dakota.

The Peeks are a family who will watch the transition in Rome with more interest than most -- with an eye on the family faith, and the family business.

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