Msgr. Gabriel Gonzales, a beloved son, brother and pastor and former vicar for clergy for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, died unexpectedly at the St. Anastasia Church rectory Nov. 9. He was 57.
Archbishop José H. Gomez, joined by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and several auxiliary bishops, concelebrated a Mass of Resurrection for Msgr. Gonzales Nov. 16 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. His best friend, Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar, gave the homily.
“So many of us are serving in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles because of Gabe,” Bishop Salazar said, explaining that he’d met the late monsignor at St. John’s Seminary.
The bishop described how, in his warm demeanor, Msgr. Gonzales preached the Gospel with love, both in English and Spanish. The priest’s love was a reflection of the love God has for his people, he said.
“God has a heart that’s big enough for all of us,” Bishop Salazar said. “God loves us as if we were the only ones to love. He died for us as if we were the only ones to die for.”
The bishop, noting that his own mother had died Nov. 13, shared how he grappled to make sense of the deaths. She had wanted to attend the funeral of her son’s best friend.
“Little did I know they would be here together, praying for us,” he said. “Once again, we come to break bread together. We’re all sent forward to be like the disciples and say ‘He is risen.’”
The priests of the archdiocese elected Msgr. Gonzales to be their vicar in 2006. He was the first of his class to become a pastor in 1992.
Msgr. Gonzales’ brother, Bill, said his big brother was teased for living out his faith growing up.
“In our family we referred to him as the professor,” Bill said, noting that his brother had been accepted to several Ivy League schools but instead chose to pursue the priesthood. “He loved to serve people.”
His brother was true to his name “Gabriel.” Like the archangel, Msgr. Gonzales shared God’s word, he said, despite being taunted for his faith during his formative years.
“Gabe has always been our angel and he will always be our angel,” he said. “And I thank God Almighty that Msgr. Gabe Gonzales was my big brother.”
Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, pastor of the cathedral, noted that it was only the third funeral for a priest held at the cathedral. “This was Gabe’s house of prayer.”
Archbishop Gomez said it is always difficult when our loved ones “go to heaven.”
“We come in thinking, ‘I’m not too happy with God,’” he said. “He was a wonderful priest and a wonderful man. He is going to intercede for us in heaven.”