Deacon Mike Galbraith prepares for priestly ministry
Mike Galbraith was ordained a transitional deacon in May of this year, and will be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Juneau on Friday, October 23, at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Juneau at 7:00 p.m. Following a previous career and raising a family in Texas, Deacon Mike was called to the priesthood as a ‘second vocation’ – and his life has changed dramatically since making that choice. Following 8 years of seminary and formal training, Galbraith spent a Pastoral Year in Juneau from 2014 – 2015 becoming acquainted with the Diocese and working toward his ordination to the deaconate. After being ordained a deacon, Bishop Burns requested that Deacon Galbraith relocate to Ketchikan and begin active ministry at Holy Name School and parish. Now, just weeks before his ordination to the Priesthood, Deacon Galbraith answers a few questions for the ‘Southeast Alaska Catholic’ and shares his thoughts on how his life has changed thus far, and the changes to come:
Q. How has your ordination to the deaconate changed your life?
A. Since becoming a deacon in May, my life has become very busy in a ministerial capacity. I have been moved (from Juneau) to Ketchikan to help with Holy Name Catholic School. We are continuing to work with the Ketchikan community and grow the school, and we have had great success as it seems to be growing weekly. Fr. Pat Travers refers to me as the “Prefect of Discipline,” but actually I wear many hats ranging from janitor, student greeter, substitute teacher, recess and lunch room attendant. But, most importantly I teach Religion Class 2-3 days a week to the fifth and sixth graders. Teaching these students is the highlight of my week. They are so eager to learn and seem to have an unending thirst for learning about Christ, the Church, Catholic History and Tradition, and Holy Scripture. In addition to the school I have my regular deacon duties at Holy Name Church: formatting our weekly intercessions, preparing a weekly written reflection for the Sunday bulletin, preparing homilies on occasion, teaching altar serving classes, as well as the regular duties of meetings and ministering to our parishioners and the many organizations we have going on throughout the week. Needless to say my life has changed since becoming a deacon.
Q. Outside of your formal seminary education, what experiences from the past would you say have most informed and nourished you as a deacon and soon-to-be priest?
A. Outside of my formal seminary education, I would say that my past life experiences are the key elements that lead me in my ministry. Having lost my parents at an early age, living a married life, raising children, working in the corporate world, having gone through a divorce, my military experience, changing jobs, paying the mortgage, providing for my family when there were times early on with little money and all the things a person experiences as a husband and father have taught me to “meet people where they are” — not judge them, but understand and walk with them in life’s journey because I have gone through the exact experiences and trials they face each day. I continue to remind myself and my parishioners of the verse in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all fall short of being perfect, especially as parents, but God forgives us and forgets our transgressions against Him and others. We are only asked to do our best and live a Christian and Catholic life each and every day as well as we can, the rest is up to the Holy Spirit and our guardian angel. I have learned to talk less and listen more. Most people already have their own answers, they just need to have someone to bounce things off of and guide them in the direction Christ would want them to go and help them realize where God fits into each specific area and situation. Helping them learn to not act on just their heart or just their head, but both, the head and the heart through Christ; this is Wisdom, and wisdom leads to right outcomes with minimal consequences, thus leading us to a more peaceful and joyous life. This is what I hope to pass on in the future to my parishioners as a servant to them and to God as a simple diocesan priest through the help of the Holy Spirit.
Q. As a second vocation minister, do you see this path as one that is gaining momentum in the U.S.?
A. I do see the second vocation ministry gaining momentum in our country. There are still many Bishops, in fact most Bishops in the United States, who still do not want to accept second vocation priests for whatever reason — usually because of age. However, statistics and all the recent studies have shown that 20% of young priests leave the priesthood within 5 years after ordination, whereas, only 5% of second vocation priests leave after 5 years. I think that as time goes by and Bishops change, the movement for more and more second vocation priests will grow. We are fortunate to have Bishop Burns, as he has the wisdom to see the benefit of second vocation priests and he recognizes the experiences they bring to our parishes and parishioners.
Q. What are your thoughts on the challenges of balancing priestly ministry and personal health?
A. One big challenge for U.S. priests seems to be that of staying healthy — both in mind and body — because of the demands on their time and the nature of ministry. My thoughts on how to overcome health problems and remain healthy are mostly related to genes, and that’s why I always wear Levi’s, even though they are a little more expensive – just kidding! Seriously, I have been blessed with a genetic predisposition to good health and a long life, provided I continue living a healthy lifestyle. I have always been a very active person and enjoy the outdoors. My eating habits are not the best and I need to work more on improving my diet.
My favorite hobbies are flying, playing golf, hunting, camping, and fishing, none of which I can any longer afford but I do get to watch a lot of golf on TV. Since moving to Ketchikan I have been able to take up fishing again and one of my best friends here in Ketchikan is also a pilot and has promised to take me flying. He also loves to hunt and three of his four kids attend Holy Name Catholic School and are wonderful students. So, our friendship and hobbies together will likely keep me happy and healthy on my off time.
Thoughts toward ordination…
I am very much looking forward to my ordination to the priesthood. This has been a long process of eight years in formation, academic training, two pastoral years and a lot of sweat, tears and joy, but the journey has been some of the most exciting and fun-filled years of my life. I have definitely learned that following God’s call is not always easy, but it is the best way to get the most out of life – full of joy and a love for the life that God has planned for me.