April 21 – Happy Birthday Father James Gulley

d5fc6da4-bf68-4282-9e56-6f69238e2066They were sort of like the odd couple of Amsterdam’s St. Mary’s Church. Monsignor Edward Glavin, the battle-hardened pastor of Amsterdam’s largest Catholic Parish since 1960, had been ordained a priest at the age of 23 and had also served as an infantry Chaplain with the legendary Merrill’s Marauders during WWII as that famous unit fiercely fought its way through the jungles of Burma. Today’s Birthday celebrant, on the other hand, decided on entering the priesthood later in life, after first serving as a Christian Brother and Catholic high school teacher for a quarter of a century. In fact Father Gully was still Brother Gulley when Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard first assigned him to assist Glavin with running St Mary’s Parish as a deacon in August of 1981. Sort of like the opposite ends  of a magnet, the two very different men hit it off from the start. Glavin provided the wisdom and insights and Gulley the energy and interpersonal skills necessary to  run a busy church and school, while ministering to the spiritual needs of hundreds of St. Mary’s families.

Gulley was born in Watervliet, NY on Easter Sunday, April 21, 1935. He was one of five children and four sons who were raised in a devoutly Catholic family and educated in parochial schools. He earned teaching degrees at NYU and the University of Iowa. During his days in the classroom he taught English, Religion, Drama, Debate and directed high school plays and musicals, before making the decision to become a priest and landing in Amsterdam.

Hubbard ordained Gulley in October of 1981 and promoted him to the St. Mary’s Associate Pastor position. He and Glavin continued their amazingly smooth working relationship for the first few years until the Monsignor suffered a debilitating stroke. Father Gulley’s subsequent efforts to care and help rehabilitate his mentor and friend were both noble and heartwarming. He did everything possible to not only ensure the orders of Glavin’s physicians were followed to the letter, he also made sure the stricken priest was given every tool and assistance needed to continue to celebrate Mass.

Glavin’s death in June of 1997 hit Gulley hard. It was certainly a turning point in …

The rest of Father Gulley’s birthday post will be published in the second editionof A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam NY Birthdays, which will be available for sale right after Thanksgiving. To make sure you get your hands on one of the first copies, join my mailing list here.

The first edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam NY Birthdays, which features my birthday posts for 320 current or former Amsterdam residents, is currently being sold at Liberty Fresh Market, on Route 30 in Amsterdam. You can also purchase it online here.

This Amsterdam born educator and great-grandfather of an NFL Quarterback was also born on April 21.

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