The legacy of Venerable Bishop Alfonso Gallegos: “His Devotion to our Blessed Mother the Virgin Mary”
In his family home, Alfonso as a child nurtured a devotion to the Virgin Mary. His parents showed great concern for the religious upbringing of their eleven children. The older children taught catechism to the younger siblings and all gathered daily for the praying of the rosary. This Marian devotion of the rosary would accompany Alfonso all of his life.
In his formation process to become an Augustinian Recollect and be ordained a priest he had serious difficulties because of his poor eyesight, myopia, but he moved forward with fortitude, faith and trust in the Blessed Mother.
Once he was ordained a priest, a dispensation was requested - which was granted by the Sacred Congregation of Religious in Rome - to exempt him from reciting the Divine Office, due to deficiency of eyesight, replacing it with the recitation of the rosary, and he was authorized to celebrate Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the deceased as regular practice. The dispensations read as follows:
- “In accordance with the Rescript of the Sacred Congregation of Religious, N
9010/56, dated December 4, 1956, the petition of Fr. Alphonse Gallegos of St. Joseph, of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, for dispensation from the recitation of the
Divine Office because of illness of the eyes, is granted.
The obligation of the recitation of the Divine Office is commuted to the recitation of the three parts of the rosary of the Blessed Virgin daily, as long as the need continues to persist in the judgment of the proper Major Superior. Prot. N. 329/56.”
- In virtue of a faculty granted by the Sacred Congregation of Religious,
permission is granted to Father Alphonse Gallegos, O.A.R., to celebrate Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the deceased as a regular practice, because of deficient eyesight.” (The document is signed in Rome, March 25, 1959. He was ordained a priest on May 24, 1958 in Tagaste Monastery, Suffern, New York.)
His poor vision only strengthened his love for the Blessed Mother as stated by some witnesses for his cause of canonization, as follows:
- “His devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was very special and she definitely guided him throughout his life…it was his rosary beads that sustained him during very difficult years while studying for the Priesthood.”
- “His devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was legendary—especially to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I observed him from time to time praying the rosary as he walked the monastery grounds.”
- “He was man of prayer, you would see him walking praying the rosary in the gardens of St. Rose Church, Sacramento. At Christmas in The Posadas, he would accompany us in the streets, singing and praying the rosary. It was not a secret that he loved Our Lady of Guadalupe and the rosary. He was very Marian and had a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother.”
- Alfonso loved to pray the rosary while traveling. The witnesses for his canonization confirm how he prayed the rosary daily: “The most familiar and comfortable prayer for Bishop Gallegos was the rosary. This simple devotion was constant for him. The rosary was a comfortable prayer form. I do not ever remember a time that we were in an automobile when he didn’t start the rosary within the first few minutes.”
- “Bishop Alfonso was visiting Spain coming from the United States. He wanted to visit the community in Monteagudo and pray before the tomb there of his Augustinian Recollect brother, Bishop Saint Ezekiel Moreno. So we took a five hour train ride from Madrid to Monteagudo. During our train trip we started praying the holy rosary, after a while a lady approached us and asked if she could pray with us. She joined us in praying, and then came another two ladies asking the same thing, so there we were all praying together.”
Out of a deep love and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, he organized pilgrimages to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on several occasions, where he entrusted to the Blessed Mother his episcopal ministry upon his consecration as a bishop, and to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos.
On August 26, 1981, Gallegos received the news that he had been nominated for the Episcopacy, he turned to the Blessed Mother for help as narrated in his diary: “Bishop Francis Quinn telephoned me at St. Rose parish in Sacramento to set up a meeting with me where he told me that His Holiness Pope John Paul II had nominated me to the Episcopacy. I spent the night in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten me to make the right decision and to do the will of God. I asked Our Lady to assist me to be humble and open to the will of her Son. I felt frightened and humbled. My nomination as Auxiliary Bishop of Sacramento, California, was a complete surprise to me. On August 31, once he had accepted his nomination as a bishop he writes: “I prayed most especially today to the Holy Spirit that I would be a good and humble bishop. I asked Our Lady to be with me and help me.”
Our Lady helped him fulfil his earthly mission until it came to an end on October 6, 1991, in a tragic car accident.
Bishop Gallegos was pastor of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacramento, California, and that is where he resided up until his death. A parishioner, who collaborated with the bishop there, says: “He was proud of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, because it is the only Sanctuary registered in the United States representing the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. He would always say, ‘We need to work hard to have this as the main sanctuary to have people come here.’ He worked very hard at that.”
Bishop Alfonso’s desire continues to be fulfilled as the faithful pray and worship at the Shrine Our of Lady of Guadalupe to seek her intercession. Often pilgrims come to pray before his tomb where his mortal remains rest, united to Our Lady of Guadalupe, whom he loved dearly.