"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.”
César Galán was recently ordained a Catholic priest at the age of 50, 22 years after he lost his brother and became paralyzed as a result of a shooting.
At the end of May this year, Angelus News published the story of Fr. Cesar Galan, ordained along with seven other new priests this June by Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles.
César is the sixth of eight children. His father’s example strongly influenced him to live his faith from an early age. He would take his children to Mass and pray the Rosary with them. However, the streets of Artesia, California, where the family lived, tried to pull César and his brothers down. It offered a sad combination of violence, poverty, and temptations to vice and crime.
At the age of 13, César started working the night shift in a warehouse. The savings allowed him to move to a better neighborhood when he finished high school.
On April 3, 2001, however, César witnessed the beginning of an argument between his brother Héctor and “one of the neighborhood kids” who had just been released from jail. The two went outside, and “five minutes later, I heard, ‘Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam — it was like, five gunshots,” he recounts in a video interview for LA Catholics. When he ran to see what was happening, he spotted the criminal trying to flee after shooting Héctor.
César tried to seize the gun from the assailant — and was shot twice. He fell to the sidewalk motionless. Bullets had struck his shoulder and spine. When he opened his eyes again two days later, César was in a hospital room. He had been heavily sedated after a series of operations. As a consequence of the shooting, César was permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
Nevertheless, César remembers that at the moment of the shooting, as he was lying on the sidewalk, he experienced a strange sense of peace. He recounts in the interview, “I heard a voice deep inside of me just saying, ‘Do not be afraid, I’ll be with you always.’”
Farewell to his brother
When he awoke in the hospital, the future priest did not know that his brother was in the next room. “One of the first questions I asked my mom was, how’s my brother?” he says in the video interview. Unlike César, however, Héctor would no longer wake up in this world. Connected to life-support equipment, he had no chance of survival.
That’s when the hospital chaplain made arrangements for the two brothers to be in the same room, each lying in his own bed. César then had the opportunity to “talk” inwardly with Héctor.
“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.’”
Héctor departed this world and César remained, dependent upon a wheelchair. “I kind of died to myself that night too, because everything is completely changed,” he says.
The process of “surrender”
Thus began a new process in César’s life, which he describes as “surrender.”
While still in the hospital, he became close friends with the chaplain, who proved to be God’s instrument for his return to the Church. “He was Jesus for me at that time,” he told Angelus News.
Many years passed. In 2015, Caesar made his profession of perpetual religious vows as a member of the Friars of the Sick Poor of Los Angeles, in the chapel of the same hospital where he had been hospitalized following the shooting. He says that that’s when he found the peace he’d been looking for his entire life.
On June 3, 2023, the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he became a priest of Jesus Christ for all eternity. He now divides his time between parish work and hospital chaplaincy.
“There’s somebody that created me that loves me beyond even my wildest imagination.”
You can hear him give his testimony in this video: