Venerable Gallegos' ministry as a priest began at Tagaste Monastery. He spent eight years working with the neighboring hospitals and religious communities. After, he was appointed novice master for the Augustinian Recollects' Province of St. Augustine in Kansas City, Kansas. In 1972, he returned home to be pastor at his home parish in Watts.
The neighborhood was predominantly African-American and poor. Riots in the 1960s had left the area divided and filled with gangs, crime, and poverty. The priest made it his priority to focus on the local children, greeting them daily at the parish's school.
On the weekends, Venerable Gallegos would spend time with the lowriders of the community, blessing their cars and encouraging the Hispanic youth to pursue a college education. He also took care of the elderly and opened his home to anyone in need. He later served at Cristo Rey parish.
Word spread of his service, and in 1979 Venerable Gallegos was appointed director of the newly-created Hispanic affairs office of the California Catholic Conference. In this role he worked with bishops in both northern Mexico and California on such issues as immigration and evangelization. His work there led to his appointment as auxiliary bishop of Sacramento in 1981.
"He was Hispanic, yet he ministered to a very diverse group of people," Olympia Nunez, Venerable Gallegos' long-time secretary, told CNA.
"We had a Korean community, Chinese, African-American, Hispanic, and he was the person in charge of all these groups."
Nunez said the bishop was incredibly kind and outgoing, and never complained about his disability.
"Once a year for his birthday, everyone got together and celebrated with different ethnic foods and customs," Nunez reflected. "He brought all these people together."
The bishop's episcopal motto was "love one another." He advocated for the culture of life, and personally paid Catholic school tuition for the poor.
Fr. Gonzalez called Bishop Gallegos an inspiration and example of hope and fortitude for all.
"If he was able to accomplish such great things, why can't we? With God's help we can also accomplish great things."
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On Oct. 6, 1991, Bishop Gallegos and his driver were returning home from Gridley, about 60 miles north of Sacramento. They had car troubles, so the two got out and started pushing the car to the side of the road. Another vehicle, driving in the same direction, struck the bishop.
More than 2,000 people were present at his funeral, and lowriders formed one of the longest funeral processions ever documented.
In addition to his pastoral concern for the poor, Venerable Gallegos was known for his commitment to the culture of life. He had been at a gathering in Gridley to pray the rosary for an end to abortion the day he died.
With the announcement of the bishop's cause advancing, Nunez said: "He doesn't belong to just Sacramento or California, he now belongs to the United States in general, and to the world, as an example of a good, humble, generous human being."
In order for him to be canonized, two miracles through the intercession of Venerable Alphonse Gallegos must be verified.
The faithful are encouraged to visit Venerable Alphonse Gallegos' body at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in downtown Sacramento, his life-size statue in Bishop Gallegos Square, and a mini-museum displaying the bishop's personal items in Oxnard, some 65 miles west of Los Angeles.
Update: July 21, 2016 Minor corrections added throughout.