SALT LAKE CITY — Father Gabriel Mosher, OP, the new pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church/Newman Center in Salt Lake City, was baptized into the Catholic Church as an infant, but it was not until he became an adult that he received the other sacraments because his parents were not active in the Church. Although he attended Mass when he visited his grandparents, he did not have an opportunity to complete religious education classes.
He attended public schools before enrolling at Texas A&M University on a Marine Corps scholarship to train to be an officer. While he was there, the annual Aggie Bonfire collapsed during construction, killing a number of people and leaving several others injured. The accident left him thinking about what was most important in life, he said. “Just going through that struggle, I had to reevaluate pretty much everything.”
He left the university and went to live with his grandparents. While there he decided to enter the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program and to prepare to receive the sacraments.
“That’s what really started everything back up,” he said.
During that time, his pastor, Father Dennis Garcia, asked him if he had ever thought about becoming a priest. He hadn’t, but began to contemplate the possibility. After attending a diocesan vocations discernment retreat, he accepted the invitation of Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, now retired, to attend the seminary.
He received his First Communion on Ash Wednesday and was confirmed at the Easter Vigil. That fall, he enrolled in Holy Apostles College Seminary in Connecticut, intending to become a parish priest. After studying there for two years, he attended Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon, but left after one year.
“I was not satisfied in that way of life,” he said. “It turns out what I wanted was religious life; I wanted a community.”
Fr. Gabriel returned to lay life. Over the next three years, he worked in several positions, including as a field agent for the Knights of Columbus. Then he attended the ordination of one of his former Holy Apostles classmates, Fr. Michael, a Franciscan friar, and “everything just woke up again, this draw towards the priesthood, toward the religious,” he said.
Fr. Gabriel began to search for a place he could best serve God. He was drawn to the Order of Preachers, known as the Dominicans. He spent his one-year initiate in San Francisco, and from 2011 to 2012 he served his residency year at St. Catherine of Siena/Newman Center. That summer he also worked at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral doing his clinical pastoral education.
“I loved the work at St Catherine’s, especially working with the students,” he said. “I really look forward to reengaging in the work with the students, with the university and with the diocese. It will be nice reconnecting with some of the priests I knew from back then and some of the people that I have kept in contact with.”
In 2015 he was ordained a priest, and since then has been serving as a pastoral vicar in Portland, Ore. This year he was invited by his provincial, with the positive vote of his council, to consider the position of pastor at St. Catherine of Siena. Bishop Oscar A. Solis supported the assignment.
“To me it’s humbling because it requires the positive affirmation of the brothers of the province, that they think you will be able to do the job well,” Fr. Gabriel said. “It’s not just one person making that decision, it’s a whole group of people. To me, the confidence that the brothers place in me to be the pastor at St. Catherine’s – it’s humbling and something I didn’t expect.”
A native of Albuquerque, N.M., Fr. Gabriel has missed the desert and is happy to be returning to Utah.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said of his new assignment. “I loved Salt Lake City when I was here last time; I think it’s a wonderful place. It reminded me of home in many ways, being back in the mountain states. Being back in the Rocky Mountains is a delight for me.”
“I’m from an old New Mexico family,” he said of himself. “We’ve been here for 500-plus years, and I love my people, I love my faith and I love the work that we do. The most important thing to me in all of this is relationships. Salvation is about people; it’s about the relationship we have to God. For me, everything boils down to helping myself and helping everyone I encounter with that relationship. That’s where everything that I do, everything that I am comes from.”
This week Fr. Gabriel arrived in Salt Lake City from Oregon. On Aug. 14 at 6:30 p.m. Bishop Oscar A. Solis will celebrate his Mass of Installation at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church/Newman Center, 170 S. University St., Salt Lake City.