Q&A with Monsignor Francis A. Galles

Author of The Last of My Many Friendships

Photo courtesy of Monsignor Galles.

by Geoffrey LaForce

1. Q You mention that when you were young, having a strong personal relationship with Jesus didn’t factor much into your decision to become a priest, and instead it was a desire to make a difference in the world. After 65 years of being a priest, do you feel that having that personal relationship with Jesus is more important than making a difference? What is the most important part of pursuing religious vocation?

A. The beginning of my call to be a priest was not a strong personal relationship with Jesus. I did not have that relationship at that time. I do have it now. It was rather a strong German or Luxembourg sense of duty that inclined me to move toward becoming a priest. As I say in my autobiography I felt a need to do something worthwhile with my life. I saw being a priest as the best way for me to do this. Now at the age of 91, I am much more motivated by my friendship and admiration of Jesus. This friendship I now see will make a difference in the world. I would now encourage people thinking about the priestly vocation to seek to know and love Jesus more and let that knowledge and love be the reason and underpinning for choosing and following a vocation to priestly ministry. I would also encourage aspirants to the priesthood to seek to hear and know that mysterious voice or call that Jesus very subtly but truly gives to those he would have follow him in that special vocation as a priest. The most important part of pursuing a religious vocation is a desire to know and love Jesus and to respond to him by following him as another apostle or priest.

2. Q What events in your early life led you to your eventual vocation?

A. My Catholic education with the Franciscan Sisters was an important factor that led me toward the priestly vocation. The parish priests and priests conducting missions also influenced me. My parents for the most part gave me good example but did not strongly encourage me to think about being a priest. However, I know they were proud of me and supported me in my steps to the priesthood. I remember one occasion when I had a moving experience while praying before the Blessed Sacrament that probably influenced my inclination toward the life of a priest.
Photo courtesy of Monsignor Galles.

3. Q During your travels, you met people such as Monseigneur Fulton J. Sheen, Padre Pio, and Therese Neumann. What do you remember most about these figures?

A. My life and travels enabled me to see, learn from, and be inspired by such people as Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen, Padre Pio, Therese Neumann, Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul Vi, and Pope John XXIII. What most impressed me in meeting them was the realization they were human as I am, but they lived the human life deeply inspired and committed to Jesus whom they loved and served.

4. Q How do you hope your book will impact those considering on going into religious life?

A. I hope my autobiography will greatly impact those considering religious or priestly life. I hope they might see that although I came from a very simple and humble background, preparation for the priestly life and the life as a priest opened up for me tremendous opportunities for intellectual and spiritual development, and led to the gift of many deep and wonderful friendships.

5. Q You write about how you suppressed many of your emotions growing up and that it wasn’t until later in life, particularly during the 30-day Ignation retreat, that you began to open up more and deal with the consequences of these emotions. What was it about these retreats, and your experiences in religious life in general, that made you feel you could finally open up?

A. The 30-day retreat I made in 1977 on the 25th anniversary of my ordination as a priest best explains the opening up and unfolding of my emotional life. It is not as though I deliberately suppressed my feelings prior to this time, but I never seemed to have the occasion or opportunity to let out my feelings. That retreat was a grace that simply broke open the treasury of feelings that had unknown to me been hidden or repressed. I did not go on that retreat knowing how profoundly I would open up to Jesus and to my retreat director. I can only explain it as a grace and gift from God that happened as I wrote the 800 pages which were the story of my life and then shared my writing with my director. When my retreat director saw my daily being moved to tears as I shared my story with him he said it is a wonder I never became an alcoholic or suicidal. It is because of this experience that I strongly encourage people to write and tell the story of their life so that they can discover the treasury of feeling that may lie hidden.
Photo courtesy of public domain.

6. Q In the book, you speak about the many amazing experiences you had traveling. Where did you find had the greatest impact on your faith life?

A. My autobiography makes it evident that I was indeed very privileged to live in or visit many sacred places such as Rome, Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje, the Holy Land and many more. It would be very difficult to say which place or shrine had the greatest impact on my faith life. The fact that I spent 13 years in Rome where the early church most developed would, of course, make that the place that most influenced my faith life. However, the Holy Land and many other shrines I visited also left their special mark or impact.

7. Q What was the most fulfilling part of your long career in the priesthood?

A. The most fulfilling part of my long career in the priesthood is that it has been the matrix or background in which I have come to know and love Jesus above every other person or thing in my life. In spite of my fragrant sinfulness, I have come to know and believe in his profound love for me. I have had more than 185 very special friends and in addition many dear family members throughout my life. But Jesus is the first, last, and greatest of them all.

8. Q Which religious figures or leaders have most influenced your approach to the priesthood?

A. The religious figures or leaders that have most influenced my approach to the priesthood and my life as a priest are too numerous to mention. But if I were to name a few they are Mary, the mother of Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis Xavier, Brother Andre Bessette, Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul, Sister Benedict of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Al Giaquinto, Sr. Margaret Canty, Fr. Bob Ogle, Vince Bartolini, Msgr. Don Schmitz, Ludwig Behan, and Sr. Mary Clare.

9. Q What advice would you give to those who are currently in the process of discernment?

A. The advice I would give to those who are currently in the process of discernment about a priestly vocation is first and foremost seek to know as much as you can about Jesus, the Great High Priest. Ask Jesus to help you to know what he would like you to do in your life. Spend some time if possible at a seminary, read the lives of saints, especially those who were priests. Choose a spiritual director.

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