And I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jer. 3:15)
Meet Fr. Dan Gartland! He’s currently the pastor at Holy Spirit at Geist Catholic Church in Fishers, Indiana. However, Fr. Dan spent most of his ministerial life in my hometown of Lafayette. He spent quite a bit of time as the pastor for my parents at St. Lawrence on the north side of town, and also at St. Mary’s Cathedral parish. He’s made a few others stops as well. However, I’m pretty sure every Catholic in Tippecanoe County knows this man who hails from Marion, Indiana. He’s pretty much a local celebrity in my hometown.
I met Fr. Dan when I was in high school at Lafayette Central Catholic. He taught my religion class while I was a CC Knight, and I still smile and laugh when I think of him as a result. Fr. Dan has the gift of gab. He’s gregarious, affable, and just plain fun. He made us giggle with his humor and he knew how to draw in teenagers…plus his giftedness in the sarcasm department often came in handy. We were always testing him in one way or another. I vividly recall a classmate of mine asking him during Lent if there are any exceptions to the “no meat on Fridays in Lent” rule, and he gave us a few common sense thoughts on the matter, which I am sure were NOT intended to have the outcome for us that they did. One of those was about how the Lenten rules might be relaxed in extenuating circumstances, such as when you are traveling. It’s possible that several of us felt that “traveling” to West Lafayette might qualify for this exception, for instance! I mean who were we to argue with the wise and powerful Fr. Dan Gartland? Ha?!!
When he preaches a homily at mass, he can weave a story in such an accessible way that he draws everyone in to the love of Christ with his naturally outgoing temperament. His eyes smile and his laugh is infectious. What really makes him special in my mind, though, is his witness of living his vocation in a joyful way. People like Fr. Dan who do their best for the Lord with their life, wearing a smile, make a huge difference for others. Fr. Dan grows disciples because of his friendliness, authenticity and compassion. Working for Jesus in the priesthood hasn’t made this man sour-faced, despite the hours, the hand-holding, or the walking beside folks at their worst moments. He’s still smiling and using his intelligence, wit, and sharp tongue (mostly) for good!
I’ve run into him several times over the years, but most recently when my youngest son was playing CYO baseball on the field behind his rectory. His warm greeting truly made my day, and it was an easy conversation that left me grateful for the sunshine. Today is Fr. Dan’s birthday and I am LONG OVERDUE to thank him for all he has done for me personally and for so many family members and friends that the list is truly endless. YOU are a treasure, Fr. Dan, and your life is certainly worth celebrating! I hope your special day is terrific!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FR. DAN!!