“What is it that can truly make the world a better place?” seminarian Peter Gallagher asked his peers. “Class of 2016, I propose that the answer is love, charity, the gift of self.”
Throughout his years at Seton Hall, Peter pursued a primary major of Catholic theology, while also majoring in Catholic studies and classical studies. He addressed his fellow graduates as the 2016 salutatory speaker during Seton Hall’s Academic Awards Ceremony on Sunday, May 15. He had been selected by the University’s Commencement Speaker Committee, which was chaired by Interim Dean Chrysanthy Grieco and comprised of a faculty member from each of Seton Hall’s schools and colleges.
“We now take on a special responsibility: to excel as models outside of class and act like servant leaders as Seton Hall has prepared us,” said Peter during his address. Servant leadership is a concept with which he is all too familiar. During his time at the University, he was very active in campus ministry and various community and parish groups and activities, including Seton Hall United for Life. “I helped with our annual Celebrate Life Day,” recalls Peter. “Among other things, we offered information about how to help unwed, pregnant mothers and the variety of options available to them that most people are unaware of.” He also collected goods for crisis pregnancy centers and food banks and provided spiritual support for unwed mothers and their children. “At times, we would also partner with Students for Life, LIFENET and the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Newark,” he says.
Peter viewed the summertime as an opportunity to take servant leadership on the road, far outside South Orange. One such summer trek brought him to Alaska, where he served in a rural parish in Nenana, gave a retreat in North Pole and served homeless youth in Fairbanks – and then spent a week rafting down the Fortymile and Yukon Rivers. “The trip was filled with daily Mass, communal prayer, bonding and amazing memories! It was great,” says Peter.
His most recent summer trek was spent in Colorado, where he stayed at a retreat house for the Community of St. John. Throughout the trip, he served with a new missionary group called Christ in the City, which befriends the poor and the homeless of Denver and helps them find resources for jobs, shelter and spiritual support. “They truly exemplified Catholic social teaching,” says Peter. “During both of these trips, I had tremendous experiences of prayer, natural beauty, service, community and lifelong friendships – all based on God’s amazing love.”
These experiences have helped make Peter’s time at Seton Hall all the more memorable – but his journey as a servant leader is just getting started. As a seminarian for the Diocese of Camden, he will continue his studies toward the priesthood by attending the Pontifical North American College in Rome this fall. As his salutatory address came to a close, he quoted Pope Benedict XVI: “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
One might say that Peter is well on his way.
Categories: Faith and Service