Alfonso Gallegos Museum. Oxnard, California, United States. Augustinian Recollects.

The convent of Saint Augustine of the Augustinian Recollects in Oxnard (California, United States) houses a space to promote the figure of the “Bishop of the Hispanics”, an Augustinian Recollect who fought for the dignity and recognition of Hispanics in the country.

In the United States they call them memorabilia: they are objects of interest that recall a person or event. In this case the person is the Venerable Friar Alphonse Gallegos (1931-1991), Augustinian Recollect, Auxiliary Bishop of Sacramento, California, called “Bishop of the Hispanics” for his special dedication to them.

This intense dedication to evangelizing and caring in all aspects for a people who have frequently suffered discrimination in the country led him to be considered by the Church in such a way that today he is on the path to beatification.

Precisely during the canonization process, in 2010 his remains were exhumed to be transferred to a prominent place in the parish church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Sacramento. The Augustinian Recollects did not want it to be lost, so the old coffin was sent to the convent of Saint Augustine of the Augustinian Recollects in Oxnard, 634 kilometers south, all within California.

The extensive facilities in Oxnard and the proximity of other parishes served by the Augustinian Recollects made it much more appropriate that there also be a center here for disseminating the life, testimony, and memory of Bishop Gallegos. Added to this is the fact that there is a large Hispanic community here and that it was already a meeting place to promote Augustinian-Recollect spirituality.

In 2016, when the Church recognizes Gallegos as Venerable for his heroic practice of Christian virtues, this dissemination is reinforced. A life-size sculpture of the bishop is installed in the central courtyard of the complex, welcoming the visitor with a broad smile and a recognizable gesture of welcome.

The promoters of the process in turn begin a campaign to collect items and a sufficient number is obtained for a permanent exhibition. Beyond the material, there is the intention to make known what Gallegos did, how he did it and the example he leaves behind to a new generation of Christians in the United States.

The showcases hold a quite heterogeneous, wide and varied collection, as is life itself. The episcopal clothing stands out, so colorful: cassocks, roquettes, miters, bonnets… There is also an abundance of liturgical clothing, such as albs, chasubles, stoles and others.

There are many devout objects, such as medals, crucifixes, rosaries… Some were for the Recollect religious’s own use, others given by him to faithful who have now donated them to promote his figure. There are also his academic titles, his diplomas and all the official documentation that accompanied the various moments of his life.

There are items of a certain magnitude: a beautiful portable tabernacle, the box that housed the baptismal font used in the parish of Cristo Rey (Los Angeles), or the first coffin where he was buried, which was the first item that started this collection of memorabilia.

Many other objects speak of his pastoral activity or even of his particular hobbies: a large-print missal to overcome the vision problems he had; hats, maracas or sports t-shirts dedicated to “Bishop Al” (Bishop Alphonse). A painting stands out that represents Saint Luke painting the Virgin, the work of a prisoner cared for by him.

The entire exhibition space is presided over by his episcopal motto: Love one another. And, as a repeated motif and common denominator, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of Hispanics in the United States and throughout the world.

Another virtue surrounds this space, and that is that it is presented as an oratory, with its kneelers and chairs to accommodate entire groups. More than satisfying curiosity or enlightening with new knowledge, the visitor is invited to reflect and pray, an activity that Gallegos would undoubtedly recommend to every visitor interested in learning about his life.

The canonization process of Alphonse Gallegos is in the hands of God and has only one driving force, the prayer of his devotees. And, beyond all that, being as it is in the region with the highest Hispanic density in the United States, and because its protagonist is one of the most exemplary Hispanic, it can be an extremely valuable instrument of evangelization.