The Order of Saint Augustine has long prided itself on fostering communities — seeing camaraderie as a compulsory component of their identities. About to mark the conclusion of his initial pastoral year at St. Paul Parish, Rev. Paul W. Galetto, O.S.A., has been promoting familiarity and fellowship each day and will tout his Augustinian merits on Sunday, July 23 when he holds a spaghetti-and-meatball dinner for his fortunate flock.

“I feel extremely blessed to be here,” the leader said of his presence at the 180-year-old parish in South Philadelphia’s Bella Vista neighborhood. “It’s a very welcoming place that had met with some circumstances that made it sleepy. It’s not sleepy anymore.”

A lack of available archdiocesan priests eventually led weekend assistant Rev. Rob Hagan to see if a fellow Augustinian could assume pastoral duties, with Galetto being selected for the honor. Having carved out a commendable career in education, he welcomed taking on the dual roles of teacher and student in ascending to his position and has rejuvenated the South Ninth Street Italian Market-adjacent haven.

“The people are great and it’s been my pleasure to come to know them over these months,” Father Galetto said. “For my second year here, I’m ready to work on becoming a better pastor now that I have a greater idea of the needs of everyone who sets foot inside our sacred space.”

While eagerly tending to his congregation’s spiritual necessities, the Vineland, N.J. native certainly knows that parishioners have physical requirements, too, hence, the dinner. Coming a few days before his first anniversary as pastor, the free gathering will reinforce the “Be kind” motto that Galetto stresses while also giving him a chance to further his biscotti-baking prowess.

“I am very interested in how people are making their journey as believers, so I see the dinner as an extension of my curiosity and as an opportunity to come to know better or know initially those who call on St. Paul’s for guidance,” Father Galetto said, noting that next Sunday’s feast dovetails with the “welcome and wellness weekend” events that he has held from September 2022 through May 2023. “What’s not to enjoy about coming to share time with people whose time is intertwined with ours?”

Changing demographics have resulted in increased attendance, along with burgeoning numbers of weddings and baptisms at the stunningly beautiful church.

In all that he does, Father Galetto carries a sense of calm and commitment to Christ. He also collaborates with fellow Augustinians who serve as celebrants and homilists for Masses at the parish.

“You can’t live a Gospel-inspired life with anger,” he said of tempering one’s temper. “Therefore, I state that to stay along the proper path, we need to love and we need to forgive.”

As he heads into his second year at St. Paul’s, Galetto intends to become even more gregarious and to strengthen already-strong facets of life within the parish, including its collection of goods for the downtrodden and a well-received homeless ministry. While having been in a comfortable setting has helped him to feel even more enthused about serving as a pastor, he knows that no matter where he ended up, his dedication to faith would have persisted regardless of circumstances.

“There are definitely challenges [in this life],” Galetto said. “Knowing we always have God on our side is unbeatable, though.”