By Julie Ferraro and Suzanne Hammons. Photos by Julie Ferraro.
At just 14 years of age, Andres Gallegos joined the Franciscan order.
Gallegos grew up in Guanajuato, Mexico. One day his uncle, a Franciscan, brought some friars to Guanajuato to preach and teach the Catechism to local kids. It didn’t take long for Gallegos to discover an attraction to the work of the friars.
“They were very joyful,” Gallegos recalls. “That is the main reason why I decided to join them.”
He spent his school years as a lay member of the order, and later joined as a novice at age 22. Eventually he moved to the United States, joining the Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2001. This province was established in 1985 and primarily serves Navajo, Pueblo, and Hispanic peoples of New Mexico and Arizona.
In the last century, the number of Franciscan priests in the Southwest has decreased, and the decline in numbers was not lost on Gallegos.
“I saw the need for priests all around me,” he said. “The reflections that I had to during my theology studies little by little increased the fervor in me and helped me to decide to become a priest.”
A little over a month before his ordination on August 15, 2015 , the province assigned Gallegos to Gallup, where he worked at St. Francis parish.
On the Feast of the Assumption at Holy Family Parish in Albuquerque, the Franciscan Friars of Our Lady of Guadalupe, friends, families and guests gathered in the church to see Gallegos ordained to the priesthood by Santa Fe Archbishop John C. Wester.
The Missionaries of Charity and other Sisters were also in attendance, traveling from Gallup for the occasion, in support of Deacon Gallegos.
“I was surprised the Missionaries came to my ordination,” Gallegos recalls. “They are very busy, and still made some time to come over and be present.”
The Mass, mostly in Spanish, celebrated Gallegos’ commitment to his vows as a Franciscan, and vocation as priest.
During the procession into the church, Gallegos’ parents accompanied him, pausing at the edge of the sanctuary to bless their son. The couple, in turn, was thanked by Archbishop Wester and Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, provincial minister, for giving their son to God’s service in this special way.
Called forward by the Archbishop after the Gospel, Gallegos prostrated himself as the congregation sang the Litany of the Saints. Beside him, Brother Jorge Hernandez awaited his own ordination as deacon.
Archbishop Wester laid hands upon Gallegos, followed by the other priests – Franciscan and secular – in attendance. Then, his hands were anointed with holy oil, after which his parents assisted him into his set of priestly vestments.
Accompanied by heartfelt applause, Fr. Gallegos was embraced by all the Franciscans present before the Mass continued, during which he concelebrated with the Archbishop at the altar.
Following the recessional, a reception was held in Holy Family Parish hall for the newly ordained, before Fr. Gallegos returned to Gallup to assume his new duties at St. Francis Parish.
Now, Fr. Gallegos says, he is ready to serve the Gallup community.
“People are very good and welcoming, and they definitely are looking for God. People have a desire for a deep relationship with Christ.”
But in order to help his parishioners, Fr. Gallegos must also have the opportunity to grow in his own spiritual life. This opportunity is readily found in Gallup, as well as time for his new favorite priestly duty – writing homilies.
“Preparing a homily helps me to deepen the word of God, trying to find out its meaning,” Gallegos said. “It is very enriching and invites me to pray. And since Gallup is a small town, then I have time to meditate and pray.”
Gallegos’ spiritual service with the Franciscans, begun in childhood, has started anew as a priest.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to help this community,” he says. “I hope that God may give me the strength to be faithful to my vocation.”