The following comes from a December 23 Angelus article by Michael Wahle:
On April of 2001, St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood served as the site of the greatest loss Brother Cesar John Paul Galan, FSP, would ever endure: the death of his brother Hector due to gun violence.
Nearly 15 years later, the same medical center became the site of his greatest triumph. In a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney on Dec. 11, Brother Cesar made his perpetual profession of vows, a declaration that he intends to “serve the sick, poor and to continue in [God’s] way of life through professing the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and self-sufficiency.”
The moving ceremony was witnessed by about 100 people, including fellow Friars of the Sick Poor of Los Angeles (the group to which Brother Galan vowed to devote his life), clergy, and several of his family, friends and fellow seminarians at St. John’s.
“This is the end of a long journey for me that I’ve been praying about and reflecting about,” said a beaming Brother Cesar after the ceremony. Indeed, Brother Cesar’s journey to this point wasn’t just long, but also littered with trying setbacks. For the better part of his adolescence and young adult life, Brother Cesar, now 42, was affiliated with a violent neighborhood gang.
“The gang life for me was a normal thing,” he recalled. “I was growing up in that environment, so it was all I saw and all I knew. We [Brother Cesar and his fellow gang members] were in school together. They were my friends. I didn’t see them as gang members or anything like that. But in life, I think we all have that ‘aha’ moment. A light turns on and you get to see what God intends for us to be.”
For Brother Cesar, that “aha moment” was unfortunately as tragic as it was loud and clear. On April 3, 2001, an altercation with a gang member escalated into a shootout, claiming the life of his brother Hector, and leaving Brother Cesar a paraplegic.
But with the same vivacity he intends to perform God’s ministry, Brother Cesar has devoted himself to finding the blessing amidst his immense loss, the needle in a haystack of grief.
Witnessing Brother Cesar make his perpetual profession of vows in the face of the great adversity he has had to overcome in his life caused many of his supporters in attendance to weep tears of joy. And no smile in the room was bigger than that of Brother Richard Hirbe, FSP, the “Mister General” of the ceremony to whom Brother Cesar made his profession.
As chaplain of St. Francis Medical Center, Brother Richard was the one who delivered the devastating news to Brother Cesar in the ICU on that fateful April night in 2001: that Brother Cesar had lost his ability to walk and, even worse, that he had lost his brother Hector.
“[After delivering the news], Brother Richard gave me the best gift anyone has ever given me,” he recalled. “He asked, ‘What can I do for you, Cesar?’
“I said I wanted to see my brother one last time. So I went into the ICU room and was able to hold my brother’s hand one last time and say goodbye to him.
That was the best gift that anyone has ever given to me, and, ever since then, we’ve communicated one way or another. It’s been an awesome journey.”