This parish started as a mission in 1939 in the Atwater section (between Griffith Park and nearby Glendale), but it can also claim reference to the rallying cry of all those in Mexico who suffered in defense of their faith. For 12 years earlier (Nov. 23, 1927), as he was executed by a firing squad in Mexico City, Jesuit Father Miguel Pro cried, “Viva Cristo Rey!” with his arms extended to form a cross. That widely circulated photo renewed the faith of the “Cristeros” in their struggle against persecution.Using the story of that event, Augustinian Recollect Father Jesus Domench returned to the parish (that he started as a mission) in 1990 for its golden jubilee. Addressing the standing room-only gathering, he reminded the local Mexican-American faithful of their sacrifices in building a church dedicated to the memory of the Mexican martyrs. Early fund-raising efforts in the area, like the fiesta of “Days of Verdugo” contributed to the efforts of the local Hispanic community to build a church of their own. Father Domench celebrated the first Masses in a rented house on Baywood Street and later in a local dance hall on the corner of Chevy Chase and Brand.The mission church also relied on the kindness of local pastors in Glendale and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine to help them succeed. In 1943 Archbishop John Cantwell blessed the cornerstone of the mission church and the following year dedicated the new building designed in Spanish mission style that cost $12,000. In 1955 Cristo Rey mission was given the canonical status of a parish and since that beginning has been in charge of the Augustinian Recollect Fathers, a religious order that was established in 1588 in Toledo, Spain. It currently serves in 19 countries.Following Father Domench, who served the early mission for many years, was Father Augustine Cuartero, who ministered at Cristo Rey as pastor (1954-57), associate (1968-82) and in residence (1982-85). Father Gabriel Salinas, from Spain, headed the parish for 15 years and was also the American superior of the Recollect Augustinians for nearly 35 years. As superior he established several foundations in the U.S. with three in L.A. He died in 1972 at age 80 as a result of a car accident. Another native of Spain, Father Joseph Santiago, was pastor for six years, having been pastor at San Miguel in Watts for six years. He served locally as provincial superior for two terms and in 1984 returned to the parish as associate; he died in 1987 at age 70.From 1978 to the present, a number of Augustinians served as pastor: Fathers Maximus Bortiri, Francis de la Vegg, Joseph Gil, Jesus Legaz, Anthony Palos, Jose Jimenez, Domingos Machado and Jose Arias. The current pastor, Father Galo Espinoza, is a native of Ecuador, born in 1949 and ordained in 1992. And then there was a pastor (during the previous 35 years) who served only a year heading Cristo Rey, yet he merits special mention for his cause for sainthood is currently in process. Father Alphonse Gallegos, born in Albuquerque in 1931, was one of 11 children. The family moved to Los Angeles to the Watts area to obtain medical assistance for his severe myopic condition. They became one of the pioneer families of San Miguel parish and in 1950 Alphonse entered the Augustinian order in Kansas. He was highly regarded for his holiness and humility, and despite his superiors’ concern over his worsening eyesight, he was ordained in 1958.Fourteen years later he was named pastor of his home parish in Watts and faced the daunting task of a divided neighborhood after the riots. He worked with the Latino youth and his enthusiastic ministry was duly noted. Serving for just a year as pastor at Cristo Rey, Father Gallegos was appointed director of Hispanic Affairs of the California Catholic Conference. In 1981 he was ordained auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento and for the next 10 years served with great zeal for the migrants, minority groups, the poor and youth. His reputation grew coupled with his personal holiness and ever-present humility.The people of Sacramento were profoundly saddened by his tragic death in an automobile collision in October 1991. At his funeral Cardinal Roger Mahony delivered the homily and called his friend “a gentle man, a loving priest, a caring bishop.” In 2005 the Diocese of Sacramento began the beatification process and the Vatican has granted the decree of validity to his cause, declaring Bishop Gallegos “a servant of God” — very much, it would seem, in the spirit of Father Pro, whose passionate declaration of faith is emblazoned in the little church in Atwater Village.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/1007/cristoside/{/gallery}