Father Galinac shines a light on 50 years of priesthood

Miscellany/Mary Beth Lyons: Father Galinac celebrates Mass at St. Peter Church in Beaufort. He recently marked 50 years as a priest.

Father Robert Galinac was just 14 years old when he realized he was destined for the priesthood. And he wasted no time reaching his destiny. He applied to the Franciscan Order at age 17, and was ordained just after his 21st birthday on Dec. 22, 1969.

Father Galinac recently celebrated his 50th jubilee at the Carter May Home in Charleston where he retired, and reminisced. 

His first assignment was at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

“It was during Vietnam and I would meet with many soldiers who came back severely wounded,” he said. “Most were from helicopter wounds. It was hard to see them like that, but also very rewarding. They treated me with the utmost respect and courtesy.” 

He returned to Illinois in 1971 and taught in schools in Wheaton, then in his native Pennsylvania until 1978. 

“Teaching was a challenge because many of my students did not accept their faith like their parents did,” he said. “I coined the term ‘baptized pagans’ at the time because so many of them didn’t want to have anything to do with the Church.”

But Father Galinac loved his students and continued teaching for 15 more years. He went on to be pastor of several parishes, eventually landing in Greenville in the late 1990s. 

“I went to an area where, at that time, 90% of the people were Baptist,” he said. “I was a full chaplain at [St. Francis Hospital] there for adults and children. I would be called for emergencies at all hours of the day. I worked as the spiritual support for those about to enter eternal life.”

After serving as pastor for parishes in Florida and Missouri, he was given his final orders in 2007 as chaplain to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort. He also helped as a resident priest at nearby St. Peter Church. The parish showed their appreciation at a celebration last month to commemorate his 50th anniversary. After Mass, about 100 people attended the reception in the parish hall.

Msgr. Ronald R. Cellini, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton, gave the homily at the Mass. He has known Father Galinac for 48 years. The senior priest was the pastor at his childhood church in Pennsylvania. 

He described Father Galinac as always joyful and playful. 

“He loves to joke and he was always up for whatever was asked of him,” Msgr. Cellini said. “ I think of him as someone who brings a touch of happiness to even the most scary situations. He brings a joyful relief to life.”

Anna Sudomerski, communications coordinator at St. Peter, said that in addition to his love for Mary and the faith, it was important to note Father Galinac’s devotion to his brother priests. 

“He has such a kind heart and was always very supportive of the other priests and clergymen,” she said.

As Father Galinac reflected on his years of experience, he had some advice for new priests.

“Expect the unexpected. Always walk in faith even though many times it will be in darkness. Just remember that somehow light will shine through. The greater the suffering, the greater the ministry,” he said.

By Theresa Stratford