By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published July 19, 2012
Father Timothy Gallagher, who grew up in a small Catholic community in Madison, Georgia, has now answered the call to serve as pastor of one of Atlanta’s smaller Catholic parishes, in Cedartown.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory recently assigned Father Gallagher, 40, to be pastor of St. Bernadette Church, west of Atlanta near the Georgia-Alabama border. Previously serving as parochial vicar at St. Pius X Church in Conyers, Father Gallagher is excited about his new role and his new community.
“A pastor is the full expression of who Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, came to be,” said Father Gallagher about the pastorate. “All of the fullness of your vocation comes out.”
Born and baptized in Athens, Father Gallagher moved with his parents and five siblings to Madison when he was a young child. The Catholic population at the time was not particularly significant, though he remembers the formation of a small mission community in Madison where Catholics would often come together to celebrate the sacraments.
“I grew up in the country,” he said, describing the small farm on which the family lived with chickens, cows and a garden.
“There weren’t many Catholics around. … We were some of the first Catholics there in Morgan County,” he said.
After high school, he joined the U.S. Army, serving as a tank driver in Germany, Saudi Arabia and in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, before returning to the U.S. and going to college. During his time at the University of Georgia and then at Georgia State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, Father Gallagher first heard the call to the priesthood, a subtle tug at his heart that he did not initially pursue.
After graduation, while he worked as a physical therapist, he had doubts about his Catholic faith, but as he became more and more involved with Catholic young adult events in the Atlanta area, he found himself understanding more about the Church. It was at an apologetics presentation at the Cathedral of Christ the King led by Father Mitch Pacwa where his “eyes were opened.”
“That seemed to have opened up some doors of grace,” he recalled.
He entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in 2009. Father Gallagher has served the past three years as the parochial vicar at St. Pius X Church. He joyfully answered the archbishop’s request to serve as a pastor for the first time, and as he begins his new role in Cedartown, he feels confident he is fulfilling his vocation as a priest.
“I really, now, truly feel like a father, and that’s always what I have wanted to be,” he said. “I feel like I can express that and that I’m really living it.”
“This is my dream parish,” said Father Gallagher about the small, close-knit community in Cedartown.