From The Sportsman’s Hall Parish Later Named Saint Vincent 1790-1846, By Omer U. Kline, O.S.B., Published by Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, 15650-1690, U.S.A. © 1990, 1998 by Omer U. Kline. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
Father Boniface Wimmer had come to the United States from Metten Abbey in Bavaria with the expressed intent of transplanting the Benedictine Order from Europe to North America. He had at first gone to Carrolltown, Pennsylvania, a town that Father Lemke had founded in 1840, since Father Lemke had been instrumental in his coming to America and had gone to New York to meet him. Near Carrolltown was property on which Father Gallitzin, about the year 1830, had built a church named Saint Joseph’s at Hart’s Sleeping Place, a c
hurch that Father Lemke was now in charge of. It was at Saint Joseph’s that Father Lemke had arranged to have Father Wimmer settle with his followers on September 30, 1846. But Bishop O’Connor contacted Father Wimmer, had him come to Pittsburgh, and, after the two had inspected the holdings, offered him the Father Brouwers properties in Westmoreland County. Furthermore, the parishioners of Saint Vincent Parish, at the suggestion of Bishop O’Connor, had also urged him to come. The decision was then made to move to the new property, and thus it was that Father Wimmer arrived on October 18, 1846.
Father Gallagher had been at Sportsman’s Hall that October day in 1846 when Bishop O’Connor and Father Wimmer were on their tour of inspection. And so, on October 18, Father Gallagher, being privy to the transaction, turned Saint Vincent Parish over to Father Wimmer. This change in the pastorate became definite when, on October 21, 1846, Bishop O’Connor wrote the formal document which reads as follows:
“To all whom it may concern. we do hereby appoint the Reverend Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., pastor of the Roman Catholic Congregation, worshiping at Saint Vincent Church, Unity Township, Westmoreland County, vacant by the resignation of the Rev. M. Gallagher, and we confer upon said Rev. B. Wimmer all rights and privileges appertaining to said office of pastor of said Congregation, this appointment to hold good until revoked by us or our Successor or until a new appointment.”
It should be said to the credit of Father Gallagher that he not only accepted the new pastor and his followers but also agreed to stay on at the parish to assist with the English-speaking parishioners, since Father Wimmer and his followers were not yet conversant in the English language.
It had been mentioned earlier that Father Gallagher, in the spring of 1845, had moved to the small schoolhouse so that the Sisters of Mercy could use the Saint Vincent Parish parochial residence for Mount St. Vincent Academy. When Father Wimmer and his band of eighteen candidates arrived in October 1846, this arrangement was continuing and so they were obliged to take up temporary residence with Father Gallagher in this crude dwelling, which had not yet been plastered and had a leaky roof. In two rooms and a garret twenty people had to live and function until other arrangements could be made.
Father Gallagher did remain at the Saint Vincent Parish through the winter and spring. In fact he formally entered the novitiate for the Benedictine Order on December 8, 1846. We also know that he assisted Father Wimmer in teaching Theology to the four clerical novices. But Father Gallagher must have had a change of heart, since he left Saint Vincent in the autumn of 1847 – his last entry in the baptismal register of Saint Vincent Church was on October 3, 1847. Father Wimmer was quick to inform Bishop O’Connor of this departure, stating that Father Gallagher had “left the Order and the house and the Diocese, and departed for Philadelphia, where he intends to remain for the future.” And then Father Wimmer added: “We separated in peace and charity.”
We owe credit to Father Lambing, writing in 1914, for information about the remainder of Father Gallagher’s life. (Father Lambing, in turn, credits Father Thomas A. Middleton, O.S.A., for providing these facts about Father Gallagher’s life.) Father Gallagher did go east, where he joined the Augustinians at Villanova, Pennsylvania. He went through the novitiate there and pronounced Solemn Vows on August 16, 1849. He was then engaged in pastoral ministry to Saint Augustine Parish, Philadelphia. In 1861 he was transferred to Saint Mary’s Parish in Lawrence, Massachusetts, from which he administered Saint Augustine Church in Andover – four miles away – while establishing other missions. It is also known that he died on August 25, 1869, at the age of sixty-three, and was buried in the priests’ plot of Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Lawrence, Massachusetts. And so Father Gallagher lived on for twenty-three y
ears after that memorable day in October 1846, when he handed over the pastorate of Saint Vincent Parish to Father Boniface Wimmer and thus set in motion what Father Vincent Huber called “a new epoch” in the history of the Saint Vincent Parish congregation. From now on the parish at Saint Vincent would be inseparably linked with the Benedictine monastery and educational institution that would flourish on this hallowed hill.