It’s been more than eight weeks since Father Michael Galasso’s flock at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Hartford has been without its shepherd.
After 29 years as head of the church, Galasso was removed Dec. 8 and sent to St. Luke’s Institute in Maryland by the Archdiocese of Hartford. According to news reports, a number of priests have been sent to St. Luke’s for counseling and re-education following investigations into a variety of complaints.
“They snatched him from us in the middle of the night,” Arthur Spada, a former judge and state police commissioner said as he stood vigil outside the church Sunday morning.
According to dozens of St. Peter’s parishioners, Galasso was sent away by the church because he accepted an anonymous donation to repair the church’s roof about a year ago and did not go through the archdiocese’s financial committee to get the work approved and contracted.
The Catholic Conference could not be reached for comment Sunday afternoon.
“Father Galasso has a different way for doing things,” Dan Nolan, another parishioner standing vigil Sunday, said.
More than 6,000 families belong to the church, which holds Mass four times on Sundays, twice in Spanish and twice in English. Parishioners have asked the archdiocese for answers and have been told everything is confidential.
Nolan, who has communicated with Galasso since he’s been in Maryland, said “he’s going to stay positive and hopes he gets a parish when he gets out.”
Parishioners said the archdiocese tried to tell them Galasso was sick, but it would “take more than an act of God to convince me that that man is sick,” Nolan said.
Spada called Galasso’s relocation a “great mystery.” He said the archdiocese hasn’t really given him a satisfactory answer as to why Galasso’s been “banished.”
Spada said Galasso’s dedicated “his whole life to this church. He led all Masses himself and never took a sick day in 29 years.”
Carmen Matos, who refers to Galasso as “Father Mike,” said Galasso’s her spiritual counsel and friend. She said he attended to the needs of everyone in the parish and showed up at the hospital when someone was sick even before getting a phone call.
Spada said St. Peter’s was slated for closure 29 years ago when Galasso was first assigned to the parish. He said Galasso was able to save it and boost its membership to 6,000 families.
By holding a vigil outside the church Sunday, “we’re trying to convey a message to Archbishop Henry Mansell that we want Father Galasso returned.”
Washington Canal, a parishioner who has known Galasso for 29 years, said that since Galasso was taken away from the church, Mass has been almost empty.
“We’re like orphans now,” Canal said. “We miss him very dearly.”
Galasso also served as Chaplin for the General Assembly and the Hartford Fire Department.
Reps. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, and Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, have been circulating a petition at the state Capitol urging Galasso’s return.
Click here to read a pamphlet put together by the parishioners.