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80-year-old hands continue to serve


Walter Galvani has a morning routine.

Before rising he thanks God for giving him another day and asks the Lord to grant him the grace and blessings “to help the Master build His kingdom for His glory and honor alone.”

And then 80-year-old Galvani rolls his 6-foot-3-inch frame out of bed, dresses, and walks three blocks to St. Mary Catholic Church where he assists Father Robbie Deka as altar server for most weekday and funeral Masses. He accompanies the priest regularly at celebrations of Mass in area nursing homes and the hospital, too.

It’s a reverent service Galvani has rendered in this Grayling parish since he was 5 years old.

“I had the privilege of serving at the last Mass in the (original St. Mary) church,” he recalled. Likewise, he served at the first and last Masses celebrated in the parish’s second church, and at the first Mass and 2006 dedication of the current St. Mary church.

“I doubt I’ll serve long enough for the last one here, though,” he said, a smile appearing beneath his mustache.

Retired from a variety of jobs — journeyman plumber, service station attendant, wrecker driver, maintenance supervisor — Galvani figures he’s attended more than 50 priests and five bishops, including the Most Rev. Francis Haas, Bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids (before Gaylord’s establishment as a diocese) and Gaylord’s first four bishops. He has not yet served the Gaylord Diocese’s latest shepherd, the Most Rev. Bishop Steven J. Raica. “I’m looking forward to it some day,” Galvani said.

While some retirees revel in leisurely mornings, Galvani said “just knowing I’m going to spend some time with God” gets him up and moving daily. “I was totally lost,” he said when weekday Masses were suspended while Father Robbie visited his homeland of Zambia.

“God gives me everything I need really,” he offered when asked why he continues as an altar server. “Service is trying to give back to God the blessings we have for what God has given us.”

Galvani also trains altar servers and has been a Eucharistic minister, lector, usher and at one time played guitar at Liturgies. “It’s like I tell the servers, ‘If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.’ God is constantly talking to us.”

This son of Italian immigrants has known many trials — with health, family and finances — and has learned to “let go and let God.” He knows God is listening.

“When I turned 80, I added to my prayers that I might see my two biological girls together again,” said Galvani. It had been 18 years since the three had been together at the same time. The week before Christmas 2014, his younger daughter visited and before she departed, his older daughter showed up with a granddaughter in tow.

“I look at it as a blessing from the Lord. ‘I called out to the Lord and he heard me and answered me’.”

“Service speaks about dedication to our baptismal call, carrying Christ’s message out into the world,” said Father Robbie, in his third year as pastoral administrator at St. Mary. “When we are told to go out and (evangelize) … it’s not just about preaching, it’s what we do with our faith. That’s what I see in him … I see a dedication,” Father Robbie said of Galvani. It is a dedication others also see.

To those who think God may be calling them to serve in some capacity but who worry they may be too old or ill-equipped for service, Galvani shared this: “You have to stop and think, if God wants you to do it, he’s going to give you everything you need to do it, regardless.” Heart attacks have slowed but not stopped Galvani.

He will continue to serve until he can no longer.

“I don’t want to be doing something to take the dignity away from the Mass,” he concluded.


By Chris Grosser.  Chris is a freelance writer/editor based in Gaylord and a member of St. Mary Cathedral. Contact her at


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