It was a final farewell for a beloved priest. Hundreds attended the funeral for Monsignor James Peterson, who passed away this week.

Monsignor Peterson processed to the altar one last time, surrounded by a community whose love for him was palpable.

"He had a passion for prayer and for people," said  friend and colleague Monsignor Robert Smith. He joined presider Bishop Persico on the altar.

"He loved the poor and the marginalized of our society in ways that were exemplary," said Monsignor Smith. 

The pews of Saint Peter Cathedral were filled with people touched by Monsignor Peterson's ministry, but one particular group said they owe their lives to his selfless work.

"From the moment he took my hand in his and said 'let's pray,' I knew my life was gonna change," said Alex Zaytsev. "Father Peterson saved my life."

Monsignor Peterson's passion was embodied through the founding of the Maria House; a safe haven for men struggling with addiction and imprisonment.

"I'm an alcoholic recovering, and I'd been in and out of so many rehabs that they didn't know what to do with me," said Theodore Denny. "One of the nurses happened to have heard about Father Pete's lodge." The Maria House has been a part of Denny's life for four years now. Few words were needed to describe Monsignor Peterson: "He's an amazing man."

Everett Crowley is another life impacted by the Maria House. "I was actually in the Crawford County jail and I heard about the Maria House Project," he said. "I'd be in jail right now if it wasn't for Father Pete."

"Father had that ability to look into your eyes and when he looked into your eyes he looked into your soul, and the only thing he saw was the good things about you," said Joe Tarquinio, Administrator of the Maria House Project, "very much like Christ did."

As the men say goodbye to a friend and mentor, they know Monsignor Peterson's Christ-like work will continue with his presence.

"In the last conversation I had with him... I said to him that Maria House is on a new journey," said Tarquinio, "and he grabbed my hand and he said 'I will be on that journey with you.'"

Memorials may be made to the Maria House Project in honor of Monsignor Peterson. Send donations to: Maria House Project, PO Box 10682, Erie, Pa 16514.