Franciscan Connection expresses the compassionate presence of God to the disadvantaged of south Saint Louis. We offer financial, spiritual and emotional assistance to people who live in our service area. We build bridges between the disadvantaged, service providers, our benefactors and the Franciscan Friars of the Province of the Sacred Heart.
I am the 9th friar of the Sacred Heart Province to be assigned to the Franciscan Connection. I follow a line of very talented and compassionate men. So, who am I and why am I the person chosen to carry on this ministry?
Most simply, I am Paul Gallagher the first son of Vince and Jane Gallagher who left home after high school to explore the possibility of being a friar and a priest in 1969 and stayed. As I look back on the journey from that time to the present, I am truly amazed. I lived as far south as San Antonio, Texas and as far north as Ashland, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Superior. I have been part of parish ministry, campus ministry, soup kitchen and homeless shelter and a director of a small retreat house for a few years.
No matter what the ministry there are some things that seem to be consistent. The first would be a focus on helping people to be in touch with themselves and the God who created and loves them, especially those who might perceive themselves as be on the fringe of that relationship. Another would be wanting and even needing to work in collaboration with others. Also, I learned it is important to be creative and think outside of traditional ways of approaching ministry.
Not as constant, but of great importance to me is the Franciscan approach to our relationships. I didn’t appreciate the gift of Franciscan Spirituality until I was gifted a sabbatical to study and live more intentionally Franciscan Spirituality. The sabbatical experience opened a window of understanding. This has been a gift to me, and I believe it is meant as a gift to all of us.
I characterize this spirituality as an image of God the creator of all that exists, bending down from eternal glory to the place of Godself. In this lowliest place in creation, the midst of the most unlikely of people and surroundings, God could not stand to be apart from those God created and loved. Even though God was rejected and even abused, God would not refuse God’s own desire to be with us by escaping into the safety and comfort of God’s eternal dwelling. Therefore, God endured our rejection and crucifixion.
This is the God who creates, loves, sustains, and invites us to share in God’s life. An invitation and relationship that no one is worthy, and everyone is invited.
I hope this gives a snapshot of who Paul is what it is that I bring to the Franciscan Connection.
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and attended Padua Franciscan High School that was staffed by the Friars. I admired the Friars and decided to “give it a try” and attended their College Seminary. I shocked many people by staying and was ordained a Franciscan Priest in 1975. My first assignment was in Cleveland, Ohio – working in their city prison (meeting many friends who were now in jail!) In 1980 I was asked to serve in Vocation Ministry – helping young men discern their call in life. They were enjoyable 9 years. Then I went back to my high school to serve in Campus Ministry. That job lasted only 2 years when I was assigned to parish ministry. I served in many of our parishes as pastor – Ruston, Louisiana (with Father Paul as he was campus minister at Louisiana Tech University), Indianapolis, Teutopolis, Illinois (called the cradle of our Province – we came here first from Germany), Saint Louis (our “Motherhouse”) and then back to Cleveland at Saint Rose Parish. Within a month of my arrival back in Cleveland – the Bishop announced that over 50 parishes would have to be closed and we were one of them! We spent 2 years getting ready for closing the doors. The Province thought I may need a change in ministry so for the next 2 years I served as our Development Office. I must admit – they were challenging years for me as I like to “spend” money than “raise” money! In 2012 there was a need for a pastor in Crowley Texas. I was there 6 years and during this time we went from 9 Friars to just 3 Friars. In 2018 we had to relinquish our parish and the other commitments back to the Diocese of Crowley. It was also at that time that Father Larry Nickels ofm died. His death was not expected – he served as director of our Franciscan Connection. Because our Province puts this ministry as a high priority Father Paul and I were assigned to Franciscan Connection to try and follow in the footsteps of Father Larry!