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May 27, 2013 | Volume 88, Number 15


photo: Father Paul V. Gallagher
Father Paul V. Gallagher

Priests celebrate 50th anniversary

Father Paul V. Gallagher

When a friend suggested years ago to Father Paul V. Gallagher that he might want to consider becoming a priest, he quickly dismissed the idea, thinking “Why would I ever want to do that?”

Now more than half a century later, Father Gallagher will celebrate his 50th year of ordination as a priest on Saturday, June 1. He will mark the day by attending the priesthood ordination of Deacon Gino Rossi at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

Born in Brooklyn, Father Gallagher grew up in Long Island. At age 42, he was ordained on June 1, 1963 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre by that diocese’s Bishop Walter Kellenberg — but he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia.

“Bishop (Joseph) Hodges allowed me to be ordained in New York because I did not want my family to travel to West Virginia because one of my nieces was ill and unable to travel,” he told The Catholic Virginian from his room at St. Joseph’s Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Richmond.

Father Gallagher, now 92, was considered a “late vocation” when he was ordained a priest at 42. He was only two when his father died. His mother eventually remarried and from that marriage he had two half-sisters, both of them now deceased.

After graduating from Great Neck High School on Long Island, he entered Cornell University in September 1939 as part of the Class of 1943.

“But I didn’t graduate until 1948 because of the war,” Father Gallagher said. “I signed up with the Army Air Corps and became a control tower operator.”

Among his assignments during his three and a half years in the military were Kelly Field in San Antonio, Wichita Falls and Selfridge Field in Michigan. From there he was sent to Panama.

After graduating from Cornell with a major in political science and history, Paul Gallagher took a job with a paper mill company in Boston.

“I worked as an apprentice for a year, then had six months at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh for printing school,” he said. “Then I went to work in the New York office of the S.D. Warren Printing Company on Park Avenue, but five of those 10 years were in Atlanta where I was district sales manager for the Southeastern United States.”

In Atlanta he missed his family and friends. Atlanta was a distinctly Southern city with few Catholics during the 1950s.

“I had a good friend, David, who was a Baptist,” Father Gallagher recalled. “He knew I was Catholic and asked me ‘Have you ever been to the Trappist monastery in Conyers (near Atlanta)?’ I told him no, I hadn’t been there.

“So I went on a weekend visit and I was very impressed with what I saw,” he continued, adding that he participated in all the prayers and liturgical practices of the Trappist community.

“But then I put it out of my mind,” Father Gallagher said. “I thought I can’t imagine myself as a priest.”

Shortly thereafter he went to call on a customer in Columbus, Ga. He had arrived early and found he had an hour to kill before the scheduled appointment. He spotted a Catholic church nearby and made a visit where he talked to a young priest on leaving the church.

“He asked me ‘Do you live here?’ and I told him ‘No, I live in Atlanta.’”

Then, with a wry smile, Father Gallagher said “I think he looked to see if I was wearing a wedding ring and he saw that I didn’t.

“He asked, ‘Have you ever thought about being a priest?’ I said, ‘yes, but I put it out of my head.’

“Then I started thinking about it all over again when this young priest asked me about it,” Father Gallagher said.

He returned to New York after five years in Atlanta, got an apartment in Manhattan and attended Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer, a Dominican parish. After a trip to Europe, he went to see a priest at his home parish on Long Island who suggested that he visit St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore where he had a conversation with the rector. He suggested that the prospective seminarian spend at least a year at a small seminary, St. Jerome’s, in Kitchener, Ontario.

“I entered in 1958,” Father Gallagher said. “My roommate was 17 and I was 37. That was a fun year.”

Following the advice of the rector, he transferred to St. Mary’s, Roland Park in Baltimore in 1958 and was ordained in 1963.

His first assignment upon ordination was at St. Mary’s Parish in Blacksburg, then part of the Wheeling-Charleston diocese. He served as associate pastor of that parish and was involved in campus ministry at Virginia Tech in addition to the small missions in Radford and Pulaski.

Bishop Hodges, who had previously been an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Richmond, suggested other parish assignments in West Virginia, but Father Gallagher did not want to move to either one. Bishop Hodges suggested he talk to Bishop John J. Russell of Richmond about allowing him to transfer his priestly ministry there. This was acceptable to both bishops with Father Gallagher being assigned to St. Patrick’s in Lexington where he was campus minister at both Washington and Lee and Virginia Military Institute.

His other assignments included St. Bede’s, Williamsburg; St. Jude’s, Franklin; Blessed Sacrament, Harrisonburg, and then St. James, Falls Church, which was then part of the Richmond diocese.

“The diocese was divided in 1974 and there I was in the new Arlington diocese,” Father Gallagher said.

He was released by Bishop Thomas Welsh to transfer back to the Diocese of Richmond. Bishop Walter F. Sullivan assigned him to be pastor of St. Mary’s in Blacksburg.

“One of the reasons I came back to the Richmond diocese is because I wanted to be in the same diocese as Blacksburg,” Father Gallagher said. “I started at Blacksburg and I retired there. And I want to be buried there when I die. I’m not ready yet.”

He retired at age 70 in June 1991 and lived in Blacksburg, Radford and then at Our Lady of the Valley retirement home in Roanoke before coming to St. Joseph’s Home.

“Father Gallagher concelebrates Mass each day in the chapel of the Little Sisters with Father Paul Richardson, a priest of the Arlington diocese who is a resident of St. Joseph’s Home.

“People from various parishes come to see me,” Father Gallagher said. “I still keep in touch with a lot of people from where I was a priest.

“I’m very happy I became a priest. I’m a people-oriented person and as a priest, you meet a lot of people.”

photo father Robert E. French
Father Robert E. French

Father Robert E. French

Father Robert Edward French, who retired from the active priestly ministry in 2006, grew up in the Ocean View section of Norfolk and attended both Holy Trinity School and Norfolk Catholic High School.

After being ordained a priest on May 1, 1963, he was assigned as associate pastor of St. Bede Parish in Williamsburg. Father Carl Naro was then administrator of the parish and Father French learned that it would be probably six to eight months before a permanent pastor was named. He was there for almost four years when in February 1967 he was named associate pastor at St. Luke Parish in McLean where he worked under Father Albert Pereira, pastor.

Father French was named assistant director of the diocesan Office of Religious Education in June 1969 at the Diocesan Chancery, then across the street from the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. He held that position for two years until June 1972 when he was named founding pastor of a new parish in the Kempsville neighborhood of Virginia Beach to be known as the Church of the Ascension.

“The land had been a soybean field before the church was built,” Father French said.

When the church building was dedicated, Ascension was the first church in the Diocese of Richmond with an indoor commons and with a screen behind the altar with projection behind the altar.

After 10 years as Ascension’s first pastor, Father French in 1982 began a sabbatical which took him to the Holy Lands under the auspices of Chicago Theological Union. He returned nine months later and was appointed pastor of Church of St. Therese in Chesapeake Feb. 28, 1983.

He served at St. Therese for nine years when he was named pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Hampton in June 1992. He was there 14 years — his longest single assignment — when he retired in June 2006.

Despite a problem with his eyesight and recent hip replacement surgery, Father French said, “I am a healthy 76-year-old man and I demonstrate it by visiting different parishes to cover on the weekends.” He lives in Newport News.

“I am convinced that a priest cannot live without a community and I also hold that I can size up a community as soon as I walk in,” he said.

“I find most of them understanding that the people are Church,” Father French continued. “They want to have good liturgical music, but if the parish doesn’t have well-trained musicians and liturgical ministers, they won’t have it.

“People expect good homilies and when they get it, they’re most appreciative.

“I was fortunate enough to have priests who were very good mentors in my early years,” he said. “I am very much a Vatican II priest.

“They prepared me to embrace ‘aggiornamento’ (Italian for springtime) of the Second Vatican Council. It takes 100 years for an ecumenical council to come to fruition. We are only 50 years into the Vatican Council II era.”

photo: Father Paul Father Virgil C. FunkV. Gallagher
Father Virgil C. Funk

Father Virgil C. Funk

Father Virgil C. Funk, who retired in 2001 and moved to Portland, Ore., grew up in Alexandria where he was the youngest of four children. The Funks were members of Blessed Sacrament Parish. His three older siblings are all living and still active in the Church.

Father Funk attended St. Mary’s School in Alexandria and then finished grade school at St. Stephen’s School in Washington. He entered the minor (high school) seminary at St. Charles in Catonsville, Md., and then later graduated from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, graduating in the same class as Father Paul Gallagher.

“I was a student of Fathers Raymond Brown and Eugene Walsh,” Father Funk told The Catholic Virginian. “One influenced me in scripture and the other influenced me in liturgy. The three poles of my life are liturgy, scripture and social ministry.”

Asked what were the strongest influences in wanting to become a priest,” he replied “the influence of my father and the pastor (of Blessed Sacrament), Father Martin Quinn, and a desire to serve others.”

After being ordained a priest, Father Funk’s first assignment was at St. Thomas More Parish in Arlington, then part of the Richmond diocese. He was parochial vicar there for three years, then was in residence from 1966 to 1969 when he was a graduate student at Catholic University School of Social Work from which he received a Master’s in Social Work degree.

Father Funk was next assigned to be in residence at St. Patrick’s Parish in Richmond while he worked for Catholic Charities as director of Center House, a multi-purpose social service center at the former St. Joseph’s Parish in Richmond’s Jackson Ward.

“Among the things we did was training of seminarians in the summer to be familiar with work among the poor,” Father Funk explained.

In 1972 Bishop Russell appointed him as pastor of St. Patrick’s and also to be director of the newly established diocesan Office of Social Ministry.

During his pastorate at St. Patrick’s he helped restore the vacant convent of the Daughters of Charity who operated St. Patrick’s School, but had been living in the St. Joseph’s convent. When the renovation was completed, the sisters moved back to St. Patrick’s.

Father Funk was appointed executive director of the Liturgical Conference, an ecumenical group for the renewal of the liturgy. In 1976 he founded the National Pastoral Musicians which has 10,000 members of both clergy and laity.

He was named the president of Universa Laus (Latin for Universal Praise), an organization founded by Joseph Gelineau, a French Jesuit composer, and Paul Inwood and Christopher Walker, both British composers.

“I retired in 2001 and I am continuing to write in the field of church music,” Father Funk said.

Two diocesan priests are celebrating their 45th anniversary of ordination. They are Father Joseph C. Facura, a retired priest now living in his native Philippines, whose last assignment was as pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Virginia Beach, and Father George E. Zahn, pastor of St. Paul Parish in Richmond.

Priests celebrating milestone anniversaries

In addition to the three diocesan priests celebrating their 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, others are celebrating significant anniversaries of their ordination in May or June. They are:

45 years

Bishop DiLorenzo thanks all for 45th anniversary wishes
My Dear Friends,
Thank you so much for your prayers, kind words, cards, gifts and support during the 25th anniversary of my episcopal ordination.
With God’s continued help and your prayers and support, we will all carry on together.
With every best wish,
I remain
Sincerely yours in Our Lord,
Francis X. DiLorenzo
Bishop of Richmond

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo

Father George E. Zahn

40 years

Father Joseph A. D’Aurora

Father Joseph Van Huan Tran

Father Peter Tran

30 years

Father Daniel N. Klem

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