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Poet Priest Known for Giving

By Clara Garcia
News-Bulletin Staff Writer
    PERALTA— Father Robert "Albert" Gallegos, known to many as the poet priest, died while celebrating Mass last week.
    Father Gallegos collapsed while celebrating the Thursday morning Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Peralta, a parish he served for the past 11 years. He was 70 years old and had been a priest for 42 years.
    The Jarales native left his home at age 14 to attend seminary, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Moises.
    "I missed him so much when he left— probably as much as I miss him now," said his younger brother, Father David Gallegos.
    Father Albert's personal secretary, Katherine Salazar, said the 8 a.m. services started several minutes late because the priest accidentally overslept.
    "When he didn't show up, one of the sacrastines walked over to his house and woke him up," Salazar said. "When he walked in, he seemed fine. He came in with a smile as if to say, 'Shame on me for being late.' ''
    Salazar said the entire parish is in shock and mourning.
    "He was such a social butterfly," Salazar said. "He would always tell us he was going to get to heaven by one cookie at a time. He was notorious for his cookies. He would sometimes stay up until 3 o'clock in the morning baking cookies— huge cookies he made from cake mix filled with piñons, raisins or fruit."
    His older sister Mary said her brother's compassion was incomparable.
    "Whatever he had, he would give to someone who needed it," she said.
    Growing up in Jarales on the family farm, Father Albert had a knack for gardening. When he returned home in the mid-1990s, he cultivated an acre of land, growing Anasazi beans.
    "He loved to garden," said his older brother, Manuel. "People used his beans to make rosaries."
    It was not uncommon for Father Albert to recite poetry from the pulpit, and always with a message, said Edward Archuleta, head of the parish's pastoral council.
    John Taylor, the parish historian, said Father Albert loved to tell stories— sometimes over and over again, he joked.
    "They were all special and very meaningful," Taylor said. "His stories and poems were something that I will always remember. He was a very warm and engaging pastor and clearly devoted to the church and to his Lord."
    A final visitation will be held at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church today at 10 a.m. with a funeral Mass to be celebrated at 11 a.m. with his brother, Father David Gallegos, officiating.