On June 3, Archbishop José H. Gomez will ordain eight new priests for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
The Class of 2023 has heard God calling them in the ups and downs of their professional careers, family lives, and the quiet intimacy of eucharistic adoration.
In the days leading up to their ordination, we’ll be introducing a new soon-to-be Father. Los Angeles, meet your new priests!
Home parish: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
Assignment: St. Francis Medical Center, Lynwood (chaplaincy)/St. Raymond Church, Downey
Since his ordination to the diaconate last year, Cesar Galan has had a bit of an identity problem. Is he still Brother Cesar? Or Deacon Cesar? Or both?
It’s been an amusing dilemma but one of little consequence for Galan, whose life has been faced with more serious questions.
Galan was born the sixth of eight children. Faith was passed on by his dad, who would take Galan and his siblings to Mass and taught them to pray the rosary. But the streets of Artesia, where Galan grew up, offered lots of temptations but little hope to young men like him.
To keep him off the streets, a friend offered him a job at a warehouse at age 13. Working the late shift every day after school allowed him to buy his own car at the age of 15 — before he even had a driver’s license. By the time he was out of high school, he was making enough money to live on his own in a better neighborhood.
The day everything changed was April 3, 2001. After getting out of work, he went to hang out in a friend’s backyard “man cave” with a few others. Among them was “one of the guys from the neighborhood” who’d just been released from jail, and Galan’s brother Hector.
Hector and the man began to argue. They eventually left to continue their discussion in the front yard, but Hector came back to ask his brother for his car keys: “I thought to myself all right, no problem,” he remembered.
The sound of gunshots rang out moments later. As Galan was running to see what had happened, he nearly collided with the man who’d just shot his brother, who was running the other way. Galan tried to take the gun from his hands. Next thing he knew, he was laying down on the pavement, unable to move. He’d been hit by two bullets, one in the shoulder and the other in his spine.
Looking up, Galan could see the stars in the night sky. Everything looked beautiful. “How come you never realized this before?” he asked himself.
A moment of peace came over Galan. “I heard a voice deep inside of me just saying, ‘Do not be afraid, I’ll be with you always,’ ” he recalled.
He opened his eyes in a hospital room at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood two days later, having been heavily sedated from a series of operations. The gunshot to the spine had left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
When he first asked about Hector, family members said that he was in the room next door — but left out that he was on life-support with no chance of survival. After his sister finally told him the full story, Galan asked to see his brother one last time.
The chaplain arranged for him to be rolled into Hector’s room while still connected to machines. The two brothers faced each other, lying on their respective beds. Galan struggled to move his hand to Hector’s. The chaplain put them together.
“I didn’t say it out loud, but I told him, you know, this isn’t the end. I said, ‘One day I’ll close my eyes and when I open them, I know you’ll be there, you’ll be the first to greet me.’ ”
After his brother’s passing, Galan began a process of what he called “surrender.” Instrumental in that journey was that chaplain, Brother Richard Hirbe, a Friar of the Sick Poor who’d gone to be with Galan and his family the night of the shooting. During his recovery, their friendship helped lead the newly paraplegic Galan back to God — and to a new life as a chaplain.
“He was Jesus for me at that time,” he recalled.
By then, Galan was “in love with the Faith.” He decided to go a step further, and made his perpetual profession of vows as a Friar of the Sick Poor in 2015 in the chapel of St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood — the same hospital where he’d been taken that fateful night.
Eventually, Galan began to sense God was calling him to something more. He wrestled with the feeling for two years, telling no one until he finally opened up to his superior. After that, the decision to enter the seminary became easier. But what about his life-changing disability?
“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” he likes to answer.
Upon his ordination to the priesthood, Galan will become a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles while still remaining a member of the religious order. He looks forward to splitting his time between St. Francis — where he’ll be a priest chaplain — and St. Raymond Church in Downey.
Galan, who grew up “with an eye for an eye” mentality, firmly believes that “we all want that peace. We just don’t know what it is.”
That’s where the lesson of surrender comes in.
“It’s a humility part of us that says, ‘I’m not God.’ And there’s somebody that created me that loves me beyond even my wildest imagination.”