It’s been nearly 26 years since Auxiliary Bishop Alphonse Gallegos’ funeral at Sacramento’s Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, but on June 24 he was celebrated in a church filled with parishioners, family members and members of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, the religious order in which Alphonse Gallegos was ordained to the priesthood in 1958.

Last July 16, Pope Francis declared Bishop Gallegos “Venerable,” an important step on the road to canonization. The life of the man who, in his ministry as priest and bishop, dressed in a 99-cent sombrero and T-shirt to minister at night to gang members, lowriders and at-risk youth in poor areas of Los Angeles and Sacramento, should have a lasting impact on all who proclaim themselves as followers of Christ, Archbishop José H. Gomez said.

“Bishop Alfonso was always seeing the face of God in the poor, the homeless, the immigrant, the prisoner, in everyone he met,” Archbishop Gomez said. “As we celebrate the life of this local saint, let us follow his example, and become beautiful witnesses of God’s love and mercy in our world.”

Following the Mass, Archbishop Gomez blessed a statue of Bishop Gallegos, created by Sacramento sculptor Jesus Romo and located in the garden of St. Augustine Priory adjacent to Mary Star Church, where the bishop often went on retreats during his priestly ministry.

Born in New Mexico, Alphonse Gallegos moved with his family to Los Angeles and attended San Miguel Church in Watts, where he built an altar in their house, prayed the rosary daily and dreamed of becoming a priest. He entered at Augustinian Recollect Monastery in Kansas City in 1950 and, despite severe myopia, persevered in his studies until he was ordained in 1958.

In 1972, he returned to San Miguel as pastor, working day and night to bring young people back to church, arranging for sports equipment and academic supplies for the parish school and earning his reputation as a “priest of the lowriders” for his fearlessness in meeting with those that society regarded as “seedy elements” and “bad influences.”

He did the same when he became pastor of Cristo Rey Church near Glendale in 1978, then moved to Sacramento as director of Hispanic Affairs for the California Catholic Conference. In 1981, he was named auxiliary bishop of Sacramento by Pope John Paul II, and served the diocese until his death in an auto accident on Oct. 6, 1991. His funeral procession included hundreds of lowriders.

Full story at Angelus.