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Father Jack Gallagher, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, reaches to shake hands with Pope Benedict XVI during an audience Jan. 9 with the Holy Father. Fr. Gallagher was in Rome for his 30th class reunion from the North American Pontifical College.

By Anne Marie Amacher

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the North American Pontifical College in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI held a special audience Jan. 9 at the Vatican. Among those attending the papal audience was Father Jack Gallagher, a graduate of the college and pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport. He was glad to have a chance to shake hands with the pope.

Fr. Gallagher said he went to Rome for his 30th class reunion, which coincided with the college’s 150th anniversary. “Our class decided to combine both anniversaries,” Fr. Gallagher said. “There were 10 of us from our class of 1980.” Overall, about 180 alumni attended the events, he estimated. The entire reunion was a wonderful experience.

“The pope recognized the North American College and prayed for the priests in the United States.”

Fr. Gallagher attended various special Masses, met with former classmates and other alumni and attended a banquet before returning to Davenport on Jan. 16.

“There were guys (priests) from all over the United States. I was with guys from about 100 different dioceses.” Plenty of priests came from outside the United States as well.

Three popes served during the time Fr. Gallagher attended the North American College as a student: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II.

Fr. Gallagher said he really enjoyed his experience at the North American College for many reasons. The biggest was learning about the universal church. “It was the best thing about being there. I learned how we are the same church, but do things differently by country,” he said. “You get such a good view of the world church in Rome.”

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