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Catholic church welcomes new pastor


Jess Field / Petersburg Pilot

Fr. Steven Gallagher

Life is an open book for Fr. Steven Gallagher, the new pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Petersburg and St. Rose of Lima Parish in Wrangell, and there is one common theme-public service. Fr. Gallagher, 63, is taking over for Fr. Thomas Weise who passed away in December of a heart attack, and the unexpected death resonates with Gallagher.

"Father Thomas was a great priest in this area; he was 16 years younger than I am," Gallagher says. "We all have expiration dates."

For Gallagher, life is about serving others and being thankful for every day. In fifth grade, he remembers wanting to be either a cop, a priest or a Marine Corps sniper. He grew up in Port Angeles, Wash., where he eventually spent almost a decade working as a cop. Gallagher then went on to work over 21 years for the police department in Olympia, Wash. During his stay in Olympia, he worked DWI enforcement and spent time with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program, but for the majority of those years he was a detective for crimes against children, vulnerable adults and the elderly.

"People say they get really bored, and they don't know what to do," Gallagher says. "The way to improve your life wonderfully, is to be in service to others and help others."

After retiring from the Olympia police department in January 2006, Gallagher began his journey to becoming a pastor. This April, he will celebrate the fifth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. After becoming ordained, Gallagher spent time working in Ketchikan and he has been traveling Southeast for the past year. He has beat cancer twice, and had a heart attack at 59, but absolutely loves what he does and would not change a thing.

"I didn't see this coming at all earlier in my life, but here I am," he says. "It is very humbling, very humbling indeed."

Gallagher loves to pistol shoot, but he has not been out to the road to the range with his .45 yet. He also likes to hunt deer, although he says he is "no spring chicken anymore," but trying to age as gracefully as possible. Nowadays, hunting is more about being one with nature and creation, not coming home with meat for his freezer.

"I love to hunt, and I love to hunt a lot. At one point in our lives we were hunter and gatherers," Gallagher says. "To me it's just a good, honest, clean recreational sport that puts you outside."

For now, he is pretty much housebound during his downtime trying to sort through the personal effects of the late Fr. Weise. However, Gallagher is already active in both Petersburg and Wrangell, and he is looking forward to traveling between the two communities to serve the parishes and the people.

"It's small town, rural living, and I have always gravitated toward that," Gallagher says. "I truly love it, I just love it. How can you not?"

Fr. Gallager also acts as the Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Juneau and says anyone with questions about the priesthood or thinking about becoming a priest should feel free to contact him by calling 907-209-1858 or emailing


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