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December 6, 2009

From Poland with love and a joy in ministry

By Dolores Madlener



Polish-born Father Maciej Galle, associate pastor at St. Constance Parish, on his Harley on Nov. 28.Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

He is: Father Maciej Galle, associate pastor at St. Constance Church on the Northwest Side. Ordained at Mundelein Seminary in 2008 at age 30.

Youth: “My name is ‘Matthias’ in English — the apostle chosen in place of Judas.” Being “chosen” has also turned the world of this Polish Matthias upside down. He was born in a suburb of Czestochowa, site of Poland’s famous Marian shrine. He has a younger brother, and lived his early years under Communism. “We lacked everything. A banana or orange was a great treat.” After elementary school he attended Copernicus High School in Czestochowa.

Vocation: “From the beginning, due to our kindly pastor, and my uncle who is also a priest, the seed of a religious vocation was sown.” But he decided to go to the Catholic University of Lublin where he earned a canon law degree and a graduate degree in journalism. “Today I help at the Metropolitan Tribunal in our archdiocese.”

The call: “After five beautiful years in Lublin, I still heard the gentle call, ‘Maciej, think about it.’ Yet the sound of parties was too loud. Near the end of my third year, I approached my confessor/ friend, the chancellor. He said, ‘You have two more years before graduation. If this call is from God, it will grow stronger ...’” In 2002 he entered the diocesan seminary.

Mentors: “Pope John Paul II was the hero of many people. He was for me, too. Other heroes were Cardinal Wyszynski and Father Jerzy Popieluszko, the martyr of Solidarity. They inspired me.” He was prepared to live out his priesthood in Poland, but things happened.

An angel? He tells of a mysterious elderly priest from Los Angeles who came to Poland to visit the Marian shrine. He had a fall near the chancery in Czestochowa. Maciej was called because he spoke English.

At the end of the day they spent together the visitor went to the shrine and on his return said to the young seminarian, “Remember, Maciej, America needs good and holy priests.” Shaken and moved, Galle thought he had met an angel. “To leave my family, yes, maybe to work in a diocese nearby where you come home now and then for a family meal and visit — but when you have to go 8,000 kilometers ...”

Chicago beckons: “Like my other hero, Padre Pio, I don’t believe in coincidences.” Later, on a pilgrimage to Czestochowa, he met seminarians and a priest from Bishop Abramowicz House in Chicago. The priest said, “You have to come to Chicago. There is a large Polish population, it’s a beautiful city.” He offered Galle a ticket. When Galle arrived here in the summer of 2005, he was accepted at St. Mary of the Lake University because he already knew English.

Prayer life: He finds association with the prelature of Opus Dei “a tremendous gift.” He is also active with charismatic renewal in the archdiocese. He views himself simply as “a Roman Catholic priest,” with a place for many religious experiences in his life.

Relaxing: “I’m into weight-lifting. It relieves stress. I love American football and the Bears.” He is chaplain of a Polish motorcycle club here. “Riding brings me joy.” On his day off, “I like to take my rosary and breviary along and escape to the forest preserves, with God and my motorcycle.”