by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. “Behind every man who becomes a priest, there is someone who was a friend, a mentor and a role model. For Father Anthony Saiki, that someone was Msgr. Gary Applegate.
Father Saiki met Msgr. Applegate when he was around 11 at St. Marys and again when his family moved to Topeka.
“He remembered me,” said Father Saiki, rector of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Kansas City, Kansas, and master of ceremonies. “He asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a priest. I told him yes, and he was very excited and supportive. He told me to pray about it.
Msgr. Applegate encouraged him throughout the seminar, but Father Saiki was not alone. He did the same for all the seminarians.
“There will never be another Msgr. Applegate,” Father Saiki said. “He was a unique man, so full of love for the Church, so full of dedication to the Archdiocese. . . . He was very dedicated and generous. He consecrated himself entirely as a priest of God and his people.
Msgr. Gary Paul Applegate, 70, died of Alzheimer’s disease Jan. 15 at Villa St. Francis in Olathe. He was a priest for 40 years.
He was born on May 11, 1951, in Macon, Missouri, the older of two children of Eleanor Augusta (Danner) Applegate and Bobby J. Applegate. The family moved to Sacramento, California, and then to Chillicothe, Missouri, where they belonged to St. Columban Parish.
Gary and his sister Teresa attended Bishop Hogan Memorial School, and Gary graduated from Chillicothe High School in 1969. Growing up, Gary was an altar server at the parish, and this experience led to a lifelong interest in the liturgy and the early desire to become a priest. He was an avid reader of books on religion, history, and science.
“Gary had a sharp, fantastic mind,” said his sister, Teresa Olney. “He loved model trains and putting any type of model together. He was meticulous about it.”
He entered Benedictine College, Atchison, and received a bachelor’s degree in 1973. In September 1976, he entered St. Thomas Seminary, Denver, and received a master’s degree in theology in May 1981. His major area of study was canon law. He spent his pastoral internship at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee.
Father Applegate was one of six men ordained to the priesthood in 1981 by Archbishop Ignatius J. Strecker. His ordination took place on May 25, 1981 at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee. His first assignment was as associate pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Kansas City, Kansas.
Father Bruce Ansems, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Louisburg, spent two summers with Msgr. Applegate as a seminarian. He is a former master of ceremonies and current coadjutant judicial vicar.
“Monsignor had a gruff way about him, but he really wanted people to grow and learn their faith,” he said.
Msgr. Applegate was a good preacher and was particularly good at funeral homilies. It could link the saint of the day or a quote from the saint with the life of the deceased and the Catholic faith.
Two things above all demonstrated the intelligence and adaptability of Monsignor, says Father Ansems. The first was to be master of ceremonies. It was his job to make sure things ran smoothly during the complicated liturgies and under varying conditions in different parishes. The second was how he performed as a pastoral administrator in various parishes.
Additionally, he made history when Archbishop James P. Keleher asked him to establish the permanent diaconate program.
“Msgr. Applegate started the diaconate program from scratch with little more than a newly published guide, a brilliant mind and a whole lot of determination,” said Deacon Jim Lavin, of the first group to be ordained in 2011. “He was undergoing a lot of pressure to succeed. . . . If he didn’t provide us with solid training. . . I am convinced that our first cohort would have been the last cohort.
“I considered him not just a mentor, but a man of faith, which he instilled in each of us. His contribution to the permanent diaconate will be appreciated for years to come,” said Deacon George Karnaze, also from first group.
In Msgr. Applegate’s funeral homily, Fr John Riley, chancellor of the archdiocese and vicar general, quoted a friend of the Monsignor who observed that his gruffness and efforts to play grumpy were “a thin veneer to his warm heart and his sincere love for others and for the church”.
“While he continued to associate with people throughout his priestly ministry, unfortunately many people failed to understand that his antics in saying this or that abruptly stemmed from a desire to show that he had you. actually noticed and loved you . . . and you mattered,” Father Riley said.
Msgr. Applegate was predeceased by his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. He is survived by his sister Teresa, his nephews, nieces and great-nephews and great-nieces.
A Christian funeral mass was celebrated on January 22 at Saint-Pierre Cathedral. Interment took place at St. Columban Cemetery in Chillicothe, Missouri.
Funeral arrangements were made by Porter Funeral Home in Kansas City, Kansas.
• 1981: Associate Pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kansas
• 1984: Associate Pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park
• 1987: Associate Pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee
• 1991: Chaplain at Providence-St. Margaret Hospital and Providence Place
• 1991: Pastor at Annunciation Parish in Frankfurt, St. Elizabeth Parish in Blue Rapids and St. Monica Parish in Waterville
• 1993: Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Nortonville and Immaculate Conception Parish in Valley Falls
• 1994: Studied at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and obtained a license (JCL) in canon law
• 1996: Administrator of the parish of Saint-Paul in Olathe
• 1997: Administrator of the parish of Saint-Casimir and of the parish of the Sacred Heart in Leavenworth
• 2001: master of ceremonies for Archbishop James P. Keleher
• 2003: Rector of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Kansas City, Kansas
• 2004: Pastor of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Kansas City, Kansas
• 2005: Appointed Monsignor, Chaplain of His Holiness
• 2008: Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocesan Court, Director of the Permanent Diaconate Office, Master of Ceremonies and Assistant at the Church of the Nativity in Leawood
• 2009: Parish administrator of Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee
• 2010: Administrator of the parish of the Curé d’Ars in Leawood
• 2016: Parish Administrator of Holy Name Parish in Kansas City, Kansas
• 2018: Diocesan judge, sacramental assistance at Queen of the Holy Rosary parish in Overland Park
• 2020: retired