Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


One Deacon Answers A Different Call

By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published February 9, 2009

Among the men ordained deacons Feb. 7, candidate Timothy Gallagher is unique.

While 12 permanent deacons to-be sat in the pews with their wives and children, Gallagher sat with his family, preparing for ordination as a transitional deacon, making a vow of celibacy, and in the near future preparing to become a priest for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory addressed Gallagher directly during his homily at the ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King, helping him to prepare for the journey that lay ahead of him, but reminding him how much he shares in common with this class of deacons.

“Timothy, my dear son, you are being ordained to the same ministry as these candidates for the permanent diaconate,” the archbishop said. “You will share with them the same obligations of a ministry of charity and the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. However, within a very few months you will return to this cathedral church to seek another share in the sacrament of Holy Orders in the priesthood of Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Gregory reminded Gallagher and all those present that there are not two diaconates but only one “dedicated to those who need to encounter Christ in this office of charity and service.”

Gallagher, who was the youngest of those ordained Feb. 7, is a Georgia native, born to John and Rebecca Gallagher in Athens in December 1971. He comes from a large family, with two brothers and three sisters, and is concluding study for the diocesan priesthood after a year spent discerning whether God was calling him to a religious order instead.

Gallagher is no stranger to service. Living through Desert Storm as an Army tank driver in the early 1990s inspired him to help people as a physical therapist after study at the University of Georgia and Georgia State. But that wasn’t enough.

“He kept saying there’s something else,” said Gallagher’s father, John, a retired forester at the University of Georgia.

A member of St. James Church in Madison, he entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., in September 2002 as a candidate for the diocesan priesthood.

Then vocations director Father Brian Higgins helped him in his discernment process, he said, and in the summer of 2007 he took a year away from the archdiocese to discern with a Franciscan order.

Timothy Gallagher, a transitional deacon studying for the priesthood, was ordained to the diaconate with 12 permanent deacons Feb. 7. Gallagher is currently studying at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md. Photo By Michael Alexander

Gallagher spent that year with the Franciscans of Primitive Observance, a small group that follows a very strict vow of poverty, relying completely on divine providence in their life of asceticism and evangelization. The priests and brothers have no personal or communal bank account and travel only by walking, public transportation or hitchhiking.

But this came as no surprise to his family. Gallagher always had an affinity for all things religious and has embraced a life of service.

“It’s easier for him to be simple,” said Gallagher’s brother Nathan, who was present at the ordination with his wife, Amy.

Nathan described his brother as a “stickler for the rules.”

“He would always be the enforcer. He would always encourage us to pray the rosary,” Nathan said.

After the year of discernment and discussions with his spiritual directors and fellow seminarians, Gallagher decided to come back to the archdiocesan seminary program. He is now completing his final year of theology at Mount St. Mary’s and is scheduled to be ordained this June with other candidates for the Atlanta priesthood.

The Mass of ordination to the diaconate reminded Gallagher’s parents of the moment many years ago when their son prepared for first Communion.

“He looked like he couldn’t wait,” said his mother, Becky, a registered nurse.

Now, watching their son become a transitional deacon and on his way to ordination as a priest left them amazed.

Rev. Mr. Timothy Joseph Gallagher

Transitional Deacon (Studying For Priesthood)

Age: 37

Date of Birth: Dec. 9, 1971

Place of Birth: Athens, Ga.

Family: The son of John and Rebecca Gallagher, he has two brothers, Sean and Nathan, and three sisters, Cyndi, Teresa and Heidi.

Education: Studied biology for three years at the University of Georgia in Athens and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in physical therapy from Georgia State University in Atlanta. Currently in final year of theological studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

Work Experience: Worked on dairy farms and in grocery store in Madison while in high school. Served in U.S. Army as tank driver in Germany, Saudi Arabia and Iraq during Desert Storm. Worked as physical therapist at Georgia Rehabilitation in Newnan and St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens.

Particular Hobbies and Interests: Running, biking, sports, reading books on the Catholic faith, occasional travel, good movies and music, sacred art, prayer, hermitage and retreat time, pilgrimages to religious sites, mission trips to Third World countries, being with family, occasional hunting/fishing with family/friends, playing “light saber” and going “down the dirt road” with nieces and nephews.

Parish Ministries Already Experienced In: RCIA, youth ministry, young adult ministry, apologetics, nursing home ministry and bringing holy Communion to the sick, religious education, campus ministry, prison ministry, church missions, soup kitchen, outreach to homeless, especially homeless mothers.

Particular Ministries of Interest In Future: Offering the sacraments to the people of God, preaching, leading retreats, young adult ministries, marriage preparation, altar server training, lector training, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist training, forming prayer groups, Bible studies, catechesis, pro-life ministry, evangelization, outreach to the poor.

Additional Languages Spoken: Intermediate Spanish

Currently Assigned: Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.

Favorite Quote: “If God shares his true presence with us in the Holy Eucharist can we not share one smile as an act of charity toward another soul?” (Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., papal preacher)

Most Admired Person: Pope John Paul II