Franciscan Connection expresses the compassionate presence of God to the disadvantaged of south Saint Louis. We offer financial, spiritual and emotional assistance to people how 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.