April 4, 2019 — While he received his J.D. more than 30 years ago, University of Houston Law Center adjunct Professor Edward Gallagher just added a new degree to his wall: Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies.
Gallagher, a federal prosecutor who has taught national security law and human trafficking law at the University of Houston Law Center since 2011, was recently ordained as a permanent deacon to serve the largest parish in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in northwest Houston.
“Just going to mass on Sundays wasn’t enough for me,” Gallagher said. “I found incredible joy in becoming part of a community of believers in serving the greater church as a whole.”
Observing other deacons at his parish inspired Gallagher to consider becoming one. A Roman Catholic deacon is responsible for baptisms, preparing couples for marriage, and assisting families at funerals. He serves his pastor and three other priests in an ethnically diverse community with multiple masses offered in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Gallagher says he “prayed and discerned” about the ministry for a few years before being asked by his pastor to enroll in a six-year formation program along with his wife. They both received their degrees in December 2018. He was officially ordained a permanent deacon by Bishop George Sheltz in February and continues to serve a social justice ministry at the Houston Juvenile Justice Center, ministering one-on-one to incarcerated teenage boys.
“I spend several hours weekly meeting with the boys, hearing their stories, praying with them, and trying to give them a sense of hope in the midst of their despair,” Gallagher said.
His past experiences working with teens prepared him for such an influential task and provided him with a background for what he considers a new ministry outside the church. Through this personalized form of mentorship, Gallagher appeals to the boys’ spirituality by offering them an opportunity to have a closer relationship with God.
“If I am only able to reach one boy out of the hundreds I’ve seen, that is enough for me,” he said. “I encounter them as a spiritual minster, not as a prosecutor. My sense of justice has been tempered by a lot of mercy since entering ministry and becoming a deacon. I learned to see the bigger picture, not limiting my view to the victim and the need for punishment. “I now view each case through a wider lens that understands the entire picture, one that includes the circumstances of the offender."
Being a deacon is just one of Gallagher’s many accomplishments. After receiving his legal education from the Villanova University School of Law in 1985, he decided to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an FBI agent.
In 1990, Gallagher left the FBI for a career in prosecution and 29 years later, continues to serve his country as a federal prosecutor assigned to the Narcotics Enforcement Section of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
“The Department of Justice has been my work home for over 34 years, but the Catholic Church has been my spiritual home since my infant baptism,” Gallagher said.