Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde has declared that the year 2021 be devoted to Saint Joseph, recalling one hundred and fifty years of his proclamation as “Patron of the Catholic Church”. As we honor the memory of Saint Joseph, we remember a great devotee of Saint Joseph, Venerable Bishop Alphonse Gallegos, who is currently moving along the path to canonization.
Bishop Gallegos was a son of Jose, a carpenter, and Caciana Gallegos. The Gallegos family was very devoted to Saint Joseph, the family patron, so much so that every year on his March 19th feast day, the family gathered to celebrate with all their neighbors. The Gallegos prayed to Saint Joseph constantly and at an early age Alphonse himself developed this devotion. It is believed that because of this dedication to the foster-father of Jesus, Jose Gallegos never lacked carpentry work even during difficult economic times. Alphonse entered the Order of Augustinian Recollects in 1950 and became Fr. Alphonse Gallegos of Saint Joseph, true to his favorite saint.
The qualities of Saint Joseph described in the Apostolic Letter Patris Corde by Pope Francis are very similar to Bishop Gallegos’ virtues as stated by the witnesses for his cause of canonization.
Saint Joseph was a tender and loving father.
“In Joseph, Jesus saw the tender love of God: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him” (Ps 103:13). Father Salvador Gomez, L.C., former pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Sacramento, California, where Gallegos served for many years, states what he has heard from the faithful about Gallegos: “He was like a father to everyone; people often comment, ‘he was a real father.’ He was very close to everyone. He was loved by the elderly, the young, the poor, the homeless. One of the things I’ve heard the most about him is that he was always available and helpful and with full and absolute joy, always.”
A creatively courageous father.
“Saint Joseph was a creatively courageous father. If the first stage of all true interior healing is to accept our personal history and embrace even the things in life that we did not choose, we must now add another important element: creative courage. This emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had.”
Bishop Gallegos suffered throughout all of his life with poor vision due to myopia. He used creative means to overcome this difficulty and never complained. He sought to better himself as a person by furthering his studies, obtaining Master’s Degrees in Psychology and Education. He was always obedient to God’s will, accepting the call to be a religious, a priest and a bishop, all-the-while overcoming his challenges with myopia. He was creative in his outreach to God’s people, making himself present by any means possible.
A working father.
“Saint Joseph was a carpenter who earned an honest living to provide for his family. From him, Jesus learned the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labour.”
Bishop Gallegos learned the value of work from his parents. Gallegos was a tireless worker, who fought for justice along with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, for all those who work in unjust conditions, especially the migrant farm workers. He saw the good they did amidst harsh working conditions, providing nourishment for others in society.
He was tireless and gave himself to others unselfishly. Kathleen Martineau, saw firsthand Gallegos’ devoted dedication as hospital chaplain at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, New York, while attending to her mother. She says: “My mother remained in the hospital for six to eight weeks with complications. Fr. Alphonse was always on hand, be it 10 pm or early in the morning. I remember commenting one time that he must never get any sleep and he replied, ‘I’ll sleep when I am dead.’ He gave himself to the last ounce.” She adds: “He was the holiest and hardest working priest that I have ever known.”
Bishop Gallegos saw the good in others and cared for all of God’s children, as our heavenly Father does. He was very courageous in overcoming his vision problems with faith and fortitude, always moving forward with optimism. He was a tireless worker, striving always to bring the message of Christ to others, especially his command, “Love one another.”
As we remember Saint Joseph and Bishop Gallegos, let us remember Cesar Chavez whose National Holiday is celebrated in the United States on March 31st. The holiday celebrates the birth and legacy of the civil rights and labor movement leader, who sought social justice for farmworkers. During these difficult times for so many, we pray that Saint Joseph intercede for all those who labor, in the service of others.
Let us respond to the exhortation of Pope Francis and strengthen our devotion to Saint Joseph and imitate his virtues, as Bishop Alphonse Gallegos of Saint Joseph did. Saint Joseph pray for us!
St. Joseph pray for us! Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us! Child Jesus pray for us! Holy family of St. Joseph make haste to live in our homes and our hearts! Venerable Bishop Gallegos pray and intercede for us! Jesus save us! Mother Mary hold us! In Jesus holy name amen! Worthy is the Lamb of God!