February 12, 2021

Father John Peter Gallagher served in archdiocesan high schools, parishes

By Sean Gallagher

Father John Peter GallagherFather John Peter Gallagher, pastor of Our Lady of the Springs Parish in French Lick and Our Lord Jesus Christ the King Parish in Paoli, died on Feb. 6 in the parish rectory in French Lick. He was 60.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on February 22 at St. Joseph Church, 125 E. Broadway, in Shelbyville. Burial will follow at St. Joseph Cemetery in Shelbyville.

Visitation will take place from 4-8 p.m. on Feb. 21 and from 9-11 a.m. on Feb. 22 at St. Joseph Church. On February 21, the reception of the body will take place at 4 p.m. and a vigil service will be prayed at 7 p.m. Facemasks and social distancing are required for the visitation and Mass of Christian Burial.

Father Gallagher was nearly ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. After first discerning a call to the priesthood in Indiana, he later moved to California and became a seminarian there.

In his last year of formation, however, Father Gallagher felt the call to return home.

“Indiana is my real home,” he said in a 1992 interview with The Criterion.

“ … Those were the roots of my vocation. It is the one Church that I’m familiar with and comfortable with.”

Father Gallagher also noted the importance of family in his Hoosier home.

“It really was my family that was a very, very important part of my vocation,” he said. “They are the people who really supported my vocation.”

Father Gallagher ministered in a variety of settings in central and southern Indiana: urban high schools and parishes, as well as faith communities in suburbs, small towns and rural areas.

He also served as chaplain for the Indianapolis Colts National Football League team for several years, including when it won the Super Bowl in 2007. Father Gallagher was proud for years afterward to wear the Super Bowl ring he received from the team.

No matter where he was, though, Father Gallagher felt comfortable with the people he was called to serve, said Father Daniel Mahan, pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis, the homilist at his brother priest’s funeral.

“He had a deep understanding of human nature,” said Father Mahan, “and was able to relate to people of all different backgrounds, from very poor people in the center city of Indianapolis during his time at Holy Cross, to people in rural environments, to members of a Super Bowl-winning Colts team.”

That deep understanding of human nature came in part from Father Gallagher’s own personal struggles, said Father William Marks, ordained with Father Gallagher in 1992.

Father Marks, pastor of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County, praised his friend’s “ability to accept people where they were at in their journey with God, to walk with them. … He was just there with the person in their journey.

“His life was a discovery of himself and a discovery of God in the midst of that,” Father Marks said.

John Peter Gallagher was born on Jan. 23, 1961, in Shelbyville to the late David and Elizabeth (Moore) Gallagher. He grew up as a member of St. Joseph Parish. His family later lived for periods in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota before returning to Shelbyville.

After graduating from Shelbyville High School in 1979, Father Gallagher became an archdiocesan seminarian and received formation at the former Saint Meinrad College, graduating in 1983.

At that time, he entered the novitiate of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Father Gallagher professed temporary vows for a three-year period as a Benedictine monk in 1984. By the time that period was complete, Father Gallagher had discerned that he was not called to monastic life, left Saint Meinrad and moved to California where he taught for two years at the former Daniel Murphy High School, an all-boys Catholic school in a south central neighborhood of Los Angeles.

In 1989, Father Gallagher became a seminarian for the Los Angeles Archdiocese and received formation at St. John Seminary in Camarillo, Calif., earning a master of divinity degree there.

During his final year of priestly formation, Father Gallagher re-affiliated with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He was ordained a priest on June 6, 1992, in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis by Bishop William L. Higi of the Diocese of Lafayette, Ind.

At the time, the archdiocese was without a shepherd, Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara having died in January of 1992.

Father Gallagher celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving on June 7, 1992, at St. Joseph Church in Shelbyville.

His first pastoral assignment was as associate pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, where he served until 1994.

Father Gallagher then served in Indianapolis from 1994-96 as pastor of the former Holy Cross Parish and as sacramental minister at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish and St. Patrick Parish.

From 1996-2005, Father Gallagher ministered in Indianapolis as chaplain for Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School while living at St. Simon the Apostle Parish.

From 2005-09, he served as chaplain at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis. During that period, he also ministered as associate pastor of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg from 2005-07 and provided sacramental assistance at St. Anthony Parish and the former Holy Trinity Parish, both in Indianapolis, from 2007-09.

In 2009, Father Gallagher was appointed pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg, where he served until 2018. In that same year, he became pastor of Our Lady of the Springs Parish in French Lick and Our Lord Jesus Christ the King Parish in Paoli, where he served until his death.

He is survived by his sisters Ann Gallagher of Indianapolis; Beth Keele of Lincoln, Neb.; and Kate Gallagher of Omaha, Neb.; and by his brothers David Lee Gallagher of Indianapolis; Kevin Gallagher of Fort Collins, Colo.; Patrick Gallagher of Shelbyville; and R.T. Gallagher of Bloomfield, Ind.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. †

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