Longtime diocesan priest receives ovation from fellow priests at St. Thomas the Apostle
By Jim Wogan
Pope Francis has designated Father William Gahagan, who has served in the Diocese of Knoxville since its inception in 1988, with the title of monsignor.
The papal honor comes at the recommendation of Bishop Richard F. Stika, who made the announcement at a meeting of diocesan priests on May 23 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Lenoir City.
“A lot of the younger priests don’t know this, but Father Gahagan is from Maine, and he has been a chaplain in hospitals, he’s been in (our) high schools, he has been a dean, he has been a very successful pastor, and not to put any of you guys down, but I haven’t met a priest who has greater love for his brother priests than Father Gahagan,” Bishop Stika said.
Bishop Stika noted Father Gahagan’s recent attempts to retire.
“You know, he’s been retired and not retired, off and on, right? I have a job for you. I was wondering if you would be a chaplain again, because His Holiness has named you a monsignor.”
Diocesan priests inside the large meeting room at St. Thomas the Apostle erupted into applause, with the new monsignor receiving a standing ovation.
“From this moment on Monsignor Gahagan is now a member of the papal household, a chaplain of His Holiness, and he doesn’t get a pay raise at all,” Bishop Stika said jokingly.
In comments following the announcement, Monsignor Gahagan said he wanted to remember his parents and growing up in Lewiston, Maine.
“I share this expression from the Holy Father and Bishop Stika. I just hope that I can continue to live with you, love with you, serve with you, and let’s always remember the strength and the power of God’s presence; love overcomes all things,” Monsignor Gahagan said.
Monsignor Gahagan was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Nashville in 1970 at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville by Bishop Joseph A. Durick. He was incardinated into the new Diocese of Knoxville on Sept. 8, 1988, the date the Diocese of Knoxville was officially established.
He attended St. Pius X Seminary in Erlanger, Ky., St. John’s Seminary in Little Rock, Ark., and Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. Monsignor Gahagan has served in a number of roles in the Diocese of Nashville first, and then the Diocese of Knoxville. They include assignments at the Cathedral of the Incarnation and Christ the King in Nashville, as assistant chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital in Knoxville, as a teacher at Knoxville Catholic High School, director of then-Knoxville Catholic Charities, director of CCD for the Knoxville Deanery of the Diocese of Nashville, pastor or associate pastor of St. Therese in Clinton and St. Joseph in Norris, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in LaFollette, vocations director for the Knoxville Deanery, St. Dominic in Kingsport, St. Mary in Oak Ridge, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux in Cleveland.
Monsignor Gahagan is only the fifth priest in the diocese to currently carry the honorific title of monsignor.
He joins Monsignor Patrick Garrity, Monsignor Bob Hofstetter, Monsignor Al Humbrecht, and Monsignor Xavier Mankel. Prior to his elevation as shepherd of the Diocese of Knoxville, Bishop Stika was a monsignor in his home archdiocese of St. Louis.