While no miracles are officially ascribed to the Venerable Bishop Alphonse Gallegos, a growing multitude of favors are attributed to the late bishop’s devout intercession.
Recognizing the Venerable Bishop Gallegos’ humility, love of life and dedication to Our Lady, among other attributes, an effort toward his sainthood is underway.
He is remembered as “a true missionary, contemplative in action, a living witness of Christ” by Father Eliseo Gonzalez, Jr., vice postulator of the sainthood effort and a fellow priest in the Augustinian Recollects order.
Venerable Bishop Gallegos, a former pastor of San Miguel Church in the Watts area of Los Angeles who later served as an auxiliary bishop in the Sacramento diocese, was killed in an October 1991 late-night traffic accident on a dark country road, when he was struck while pushing his stalled Volkswagen to the side. He had been returning to Sacramento following a visit some hours away at the Sacred Heart Church in Gridley, where he confirmed 50 teenagers, comforted a young man dying of AIDS and attended a pro-life rally.
“His life ended as he had spent most of his life: on the road, in the streets, bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to his brothers and sisters,” noted Fr. Gonzalez, parochial vicar and provincial counselor, who now resides in St. Rita Parish in Madrid.
Fr. Gonzalez said he’s impressed by the late bishop’s joy for life and spirit of humble service. “He was a man of faith and boundless charity toward everyone, no matter their race or creed.”
In July 2016, Pope Francis declared Bishop Gallegos as Venerable, one of the documented steps toward sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.
The veneration application required Fr. Gonzalez to interview 130 witnesses who knew the late bishop to document his life story, qualities, virtues and actions.
“It has been very enriching to be able to meet the people who knew him and were good friends of his,” Fr. Gonzalez said. “It was greatly inspiring to me to learn about the process through which the Church declares someone a saint.”
Gonzalez said that meeting those who knew Bishop Gallegos, including his family, friends and parishioners, and learning more about him, his joyful manner and love for others, has inspired him to imitate his example. Also aspiring to imitate Venerable Bishop Gallegos is Dr. Raul Vallejo, a Southgate dentist who knew the late bishop when he served in Watts.
Dr. Vallejo recalled that the pastor walked from one home to another in the gang-ridden, low-income neighborhood to cheer residents and bring them closer to God.
“What set him apart was his joy,” Dr. Vallejo said. “He made you feel good in the sense that you were important regardless of your background or situation.
“He was open, easy to converse with and people wanted to be close to him,” he added. “He made us each feel that we have a purpose.”
In 1979 then-Father Gallegos was appointed the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ first director of Hispanic Affairs for the California Bishops Conference and worked in coordination with the bishops in California and Baja California to advocate for the growing Hispanic population.
When he arrived in Sacramento, he resided at St. Rose Church, traveling extensively, meeting with church leaders, creating evangelizing teams and using mass media to communicate the Gospel message.
From 1980 to 1991, he lived at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where he continued visiting the faithful, speaking to everyone he encountered in the streets. “He stopped to talk to everyone,” Fr. Gonzalez said.
Fr. Gallegos became Auxiliary Bishop of Sacramento in 1981.
“As Bishop,” Fr. Gonzalez added, “Gallegos continued to do what he loved most: be among his flock. He travelled up and down the Diocese of Sacramento: confirmations, funerals, visiting the sick, jails, migrant camps, cruising with the low riders. On one occasion he travelled four hours to preside the Eucharist on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
A fellow Augustinian Recollect who knew Bishop Gallegos noted the would-be saint’s humility and mercy. “He impressed me with his holiness and his prayerfulness,” said Deacon Ulises Feliciano of Our Lady of the Pillar Church in Santa Ana.
Among his many virtues, Bishop Gallegos was devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. He also spent hours before the Blessed Sacrament each day. A lifelong sufferer of myopia, he turned to the Lord to help him deal with his significant vision issues. He slept four hours or less each night.
“He hated to waste time – that was his pet peeve,” Fr. Gonzales explained. “He was up late in prayer and up early working hard to serve others during the day.”
According to Gonzales, “He was a tireless servant of the Lord.”
For more information about Venerable Bishop Gallegos and the sainthood effort, visit BishopGallegos.org