• Mass Times

• Coming Events

• Sacraments

• Ministries

• Parish Staff

• Consultative Bodies

• Photo Gallery

• Virtual Tour

• History

• Contribute


• Bulletin

• In Your Midst

• Pastor's Desk


• Becoming Catholic

• Bookstore

• Faith Formation

• Funerals

• Immigrant Assistance

• Liturgy

• Mental Health

• Music

• Outreach/Advocacy

• Pastoral Care

• Weddings

• Young Adults

• Youth Ministry




In 100 years, St. James Cathedral has had only eight pastors and every one of them has had an Irish surname! The list of them could be an Irish Litany of the Saints (or maybe an Irish law firm?): Hanley, Noonan, Stafford, O’Neill, Gallagher, Gill, Gallagher, and Ryan! Each of them made a significant contribution to the life of this parish. But with due respect to my own Irish heritage, something tells me that the pastors’ names of the second hundred years will read quite differently than those of the first. We are a far more multi-cultural Church in 2003 than we ever were in 1903, and we with the Irish surnames will undoubtedly have to move over and make room for a whole new alphabet of names. In the meantime, we will take advantage of the Centennial celebration to introduce you to the estimable Irishmen who pastored the Cathedral in its first hundred years.

          ---- Father Michael G. Ryan



Msgr. Daniel A. Hanly

The parents of the Cathedral’s first pastor emigrated from County Roscommon, Ireland to Baltimore, where Daniel Hanly was born on May 26, 1873. Educated in Christian Brothers’ schools in Baltimore, he later studied at Loyola and Gonzaga. In 1902 he moved to the Diocese of Nesqually (later Seattle), and Bishop O’Dea sent him to Montreal to study for the priesthood at the Grand Sulpician Seminary. Hanly was ordained July 8, 1906 by Bishop Archambault of Quebec. After his ordination, he was stationed at St. Edward’s Chapel, Seattle’s pro-Cathedral, and immediately set about organizing the parish’s first plainchant choir, which he soon handed over to Dr. Franklin Sawyer Palmer, the Cathedral’s new organist and choir director. During his years at St. James, Msgr. Hanly also found time to build the first mission church in West Seattle, Holy Rosary. After his years at the Cathedral, he was named pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Bellingham. His priestly ministry was distinguished by many official appointments, including Chancellor (1912-1916), and then Vicar General, an office he filled for many years. When Msgr. Hanly celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination in 1931, Bishop O’Dea said, “It is impossible to say what glory has been given to God, and how many souls have been saved, in Monsignor Hanly’s priestly administration of twenty-five years. He has lived the ideal priestly life. He has been a devoted, zealous, self-sacrificing pastor of souls, and he has been an exemplar for all his fellow priests.” Msgr. Hanly died on December 14, 1944.


Msgr. William J. Noonan

Born in 1878 in County Limerick, Msgr. Noonan arrived in the Diocese of Seattle direct from Ireland in 1906. After a short stint as an assistant at the Cathedral, he spent some time as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Bellingham, where he purchased land and raised money for a new church while tending to the missions in the area. But soon he was back at St. James Cathedral (trading places with Msgr. Hanly!), where he spent the next 11 years in what the Progress called “unremitting and most self-sacrificing labor.” His years at the Cathedral were among the most exciting in its history: not only did he guide the parish through the First World War, he built the Cathedral School, repaired the ravaged Cathedral after the collapse of the great dome in 1916, bought land for what would become O’Dea High School, and even had time to select the subjects and arrangement of the Cathedral’s stained glass windows! Many stories are told about Msgr. Noonan, who stood 6 feet 4 inches high and possessed a sharp Irish tongue. According to one historian, “he would stand for no criticism at all of the Holy Father, the hierarchy, or civil authority. ‘It ill becomes a priest to criticize his bishop!’ he would admonish in solemn tones. He once grew furious with a seminarian who shared gossip in his presence about General Eisenhower. ‘The man invaded Europe, and ye dare to make remarks about him!’ he roared” (Dr. Andrew M. Prouty, “The Big Snow and the Big Priest,” 1983).
    Msgr. Noonan spent much of his pastorate trying to reduce the incredible debt into which the Cathedral Parish had sunk after the collapse of the dome. Twice a year he succeeded in mustering the interest payments, but it was not until 1944 that the parish was finally debt-free. In 1918, Msgr. Noonan was given the plum appointment of “Irremovable Rector” of St. Patrick’s in Tacoma. He retained an active role in diocesan affairs; when Bishop O’Dea died on Christmas Day, 1932, Msgr. Noonan served as Administrator until the appointment of the new Bishop, Gerald Shaughnessy. Msgr. Noonan died in 1953, after 34 years at St. Patrick’s.


Msgr. James Gordon Stafford

The Cathedral’s third pastor was born February 13, 1882 in Auburn, New York. After studies in Maryland and in Paris (where he received the tonsure from Cardinal Amette), he was “affiliated” to the Diocese of Seattle in 1909, ordained in 1910 by Cardinal Gibbons in Baltimore, and appointed Assistant at St. Mary’s in Seattle. He served as pastor of St. Margaret’s in Seattle from 1911 to 1919, and was then transferred to the Cathedral. On that occasion, the Progress announced, “the appointment is immensely popular everywhere except in St. Margaret’s parish.” At the Cathedral, Msgr. Stafford’s tremendous gifts were immediately in evidence. Just a year after his appointment, he conducted an amazingly successful drive to build O’Dea High School, raising $80,000 in a very short time. Msgr. Stafford also introduced the parish envelope system on the west coast—a system which virtually every parish in the country now takes for granted. His gifts as a fund-raiser were such that he was invited to speak at national conventions on the subject. But he had other gifts as well. At the time of the Silver Jubilee of his ordination, the Progress provided a retrospective on his extraordinary career. “Although necessity forced his genius to manifest itself in financial enterprise on behalf of the Church, it is rather in the artistic realm of the Church’s liturgical ceremonies that it has had most complete expression. Under his masterful direction the Cathedral boys choir was developed and historic ceremonies were clothed with such perfection of liturgical wealth and beauty that they are known and admired by priests and prelates throughout the country.” Msgr. Stafford was also known for his “devotion to the poor and the lowly,” and was a zealous supporter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. After many years of service to the Cathedral Parish, Msgr. Stafford was appointed to Assumption in Bellingham in 1935. He died February 3, 1949.  Read more about Msgr. Stafford here.


Father William Henry O’Neill

Our fourth pastor was born in Butte, Montana in 1900, but moved to Seattle with his family at the age of 16. He studied at Seattle College (now Seattle University) before attending St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California. This brilliant student (he graduated from St. Patrick’s with highest honors) was ordained at age 24 by Bishop O’Dea in St. James Cathedral, in a Mass Monsignors Hanly and Stafford both attended. After serving five years at the Cathedral as an assistant, Bishop O’Dea sent the young man to Catholic University in Washington, DC, to pursue a doctorate in Canon Law. He returned in 1930 with his J.C.D., and resumed his duties as assistant at the Cathedral. In 1934-35, he spent a year at Holy Family in Kirkland, before being appointed Pastor of the Cathedral by Bishop Shaughnessy. Father O’Neill’s health had never been strong, and he died, far too young, in 1943. He had spent 16 of his 19 years of priestly ministry at St. James Cathedral.


Msgr. John Gallagher

The Cathedral’s fifth pastor was born August 20, 1900, in Cleveland, Ohio, and pursued seminary studies at St. Patrick’s in Menlo Park, California, where he was two years behind Father William O’Neill (see above). Following his ordination in St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco, Gallagher was assigned as an assistant at the Cathedral, a post he held for five years. During that time he also acted as personal assistant to the aging Bishop O’Dea. From 1931-1933 Gallagher held the Chancery posts of director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and director of Social Agencies (which later evolved into Catholic Community Services). When he left the Cathedral in 1931, his own brother, Fr. Hugh Gallagher, took his place as assistant! During his years at the Chancery, Msgr. Gallagher was appointed, in quick succession, Vice-Chancellor, Chancellor, and Vicar General. He returned to the Cathedral as pastor in 1943, a post he held until his death. Msgr. Gallagher was a great administrator; but he loved being a pastor as well. He took a special interest in the Cathedral School, where he was very well loved by the students and the teachers alike. Msgr. Gallagher died in Cleveland, at the home of his parents (who had recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary), after an illness of several months. He was surrounded by family and friends. Back in Seattle, a great number of the priests of the Archdiocese attended the funeral Mass offered by Archbishop Connolly for this respected leader.

Bishop Thomas E. Gill

The Cathedral’s sixth pastor was the first to be born in Seattle. He was born on March 18, 1908, just three months after the dedication of the Cathedral, and grew up in St. Joseph’s parish on Capitol Hill. He attended St. Joseph’s, then O’Dea High School and Seattle Prep, before going on to seminary studies at St. Patrick’s in Menlo Park, where Msgr. Gallagher and Father O’Neill had also prepared for the priesthood. An excellent second baseman, it is said he considered a career in baseball before he decided to be a priest! The Gill family was rich in vocations. The future bishop’s mother was related to the 19th-century Archbishop Michael McHale of Tuam, Ireland; two of Bishop Gill’s great-uncles were priests; and two of his nephews became priests as well, one of them none other than Michael G. Ryan! After ordination in San Francisco, the then Father Gill spent a year at St. Patrick’s in Tacoma with the legendary Msgr. Noonan, and then spent three years at St. Mary’s in Seattle. Father Gill then went to Washington, DC, where he received a Masters in Social Work at Catholic University. On his return to Seattle, he managed Catholic Children’s Services, an agency which he helped to form and of which he was “the heart and soul.” His concern for children was one of the driving forces in his ministry. He said, “the supreme objective in this life is to offer youngsters the opportunity and the help to achieve the best possible adjustment to the real life… and that is the life that isn’t destined to end under a tombstone, but is life eternal.” In 1955, Father Gill was appointed Pastor of St. James Cathedral, retaining his various other responsibilities; and a year later he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle. Archbishop Thomas Connolly wondered at the time how the new bishop would be able to spare time to help him, since he was already “the second busiest man in the archdiocese.” Bishop Gill replied, “Well, there are a few hours between midnight and five a.m. that I might be able to assist Your Excellency.” For the next 18 years, he worked indefatigably as he carried out the multitudinous responsibilities of a pastor, an administrator, and a bishop. On November 11, 1973, Bishop Gill died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Washington, DC, where he was attending a Bishops’ conference. Bishop Gill had guided the Cathedral parish through the Second Vatican Council, and through some of the most tumultuous and transformative years in American history. Just the week before he died, he installed the parish’s first extraordinary ministers of holy communion. It was simultaneously the end and the beginning of an era.  Read more about Bishop Gill here.


Father William E. Gallagher

The seventh pastor of St. James Cathedral, Father William Gallagher, was ordained in 1946. His first assignment was as an assistant at the Cathedral. As Father Jerry Dooley wrote in an appreciation of Father Gallagher in 1988: “He was terrified when he climbed the cathedral steps for the first time, suitcase in hand. In those days priests were ordained without any practical experience. They hadn’t baptized anyone; they’d given perhaps three homilies and those to a seminary audience.” His special assignment was to serve as Master of Ceremonies for Bishop Shaughnessy. “That doesn’t sound difficult but it was. Episcopal ceremonies—nuns’ vow-taking, priests’ funerals, confirmations, jubilees of every kind—were ‘big affairs’ (Father Gallagher’s phrase). The bishop was an expert on ceremonies himself; he was also a perfectionist. ‘Everything had to be exactly right,’ Father Gallagher remembers. ‘If there was too much starch in the alb that was set out for him or if the strings on his amice were too short, I’d hear about it.’ Father Gallagher memorized each detail of every ceremony. He’d call ahead to a pastor or Mother Superior to go over details and make sure everything would be in readiness…. The authoritative ceremonies commentary was much underlined and annotated by the bishop.” In 1956, Father Gallagher received a new assignment: he was appointed pastor of St. Luke’s in North Seattle, which was then considered a “country” parish. When he began, the parish had just 400 families, but when he left in 1972 to take up a new position at Sacred Heart in Bellevue, it had grown to 1200. Father Gallagher returned to St. James Cathedral in 1974. “He wasn’t the same man who had left 17 years earlier. The scheduling still got done, but it was no longer a priority. People came triumphantly first.” Father Gallagher encouraged lay ministry, and during his pastorate the English as a Second Language program began under the leadership of Sister Terence Maureen Reilly. Father Gallagher loved the rich diversity of the parish, and encouraged special celebrations—like the International Marian Festival each May—to celebrate that diversity. And he loved music. In 1981, he hired Dr. James Savage to restore the faded glory of the Cathedral’s music program. Father Gallagher became “a patron of the arts in the best sense, supporting artists and at the same time letting them follow their lights.”  On his retirement in June, 1988, Father Gallagher returned to Ruston, near Tacoma, where he had grown up. Father Gallagher died September 26, 2013 and was buried from his beloved Cathedral.


Father Michael G. Ryan

Father Michael G. Ryan was born in Seattle and attended St. Anne’s grade school. He graduated from high school at St. Edward’s Seminary in Kenmore and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore. He attended the North American College in Rome, completed his graduate theological studies at the Gregorian University there and, on December 17, 1966, was ordained a priest at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Between 1966 and 1977 Father Ryan served in pastoral roles at St. Patrick’s Parish in Tacoma and St. Francis Parish in the San Juan Islands. Later he was appointed Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Seattle and a member of the college faculty at St. Thomas Seminary. He also served as the founding director of the Archdiocese’s program for the training of Permanent Deacons.  In 1977 Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen appointed him as Chancellor for the Archdiocese of Seattle and Vicar General. He served in those capacities until 1988 when the same Archbishop appointed him Pastor of St. James Cathedral where he continues to serve. In 1994, Father Ryan oversaw the nationally acclaimed renovation and restoration of the Cathedral.  Under his leadership, the Cathedral parish has tripled in size, drawing families from more than 180 ZIP codes.

Father Ryan has served on many church governing boards, including the Board of Directors of The National Catholic Reporter, the National Association of Cathedral Pastors, the board of the Institute of Theological Studies at Seattle University, Catholic Community Services of Seattle-King County, the Providence Foundation, and the Church Council of Greater Seattle. His community involvements have included service on the Board of the United Way of King County and of the Noah Sealth L’Arche Community of Seattle.  In 1999 he was awarded a Doctoral Degree in Humanities, honoris causa, by Seattle University.


Return to the History Home Page


Return to St. James Cathedral Parish Website

804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303