Thursday, January 05, 2017

A Saint for the Immigrants

Today the Church, especially in the USA, celebrates the life of Saint John Nepomucene Neumann. John was born in 1811 and raised in what is today the Czech Republic. He left his homeland as a seminarian ready to be ordained. He was ordained in New York and sent as a missionary to much of Pennsylvania and western Ohio. To accommodate the needs of the immigrants coming from Europe, he learned 12 languages from Gallic to Italian. He was a pastor for the poor and desparate. After four years of a challenging life ministering alone, Father Neumann joined the Redemptorist order. As a Redemptorist he would have the benefits of a religious community of like-minded priests to back him. Neumann was consecrated as the fourth bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. At that time the Archdiocese covered a very large area of Pennsylvania and New jersey. After having served in Buffalo, New York and in Pittsburgh, PA, Neumann readily took the responsibility of Archbishop. He established the first "national" Italian Parish of St. Mary Magdalene de P
azzi in South Philadelphia. He organized a system of Catholic schools to educate the thousands of children of a mostly immigrant population. At that time, members of "the No Nothing" political anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant party often broke windows in the Catholic Churches. He continued
the construction of the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul. Its stained glass windows and its main floor are high off of the street level as a protection from No Nothing vandalism. To promote devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Bishop Neumann initiated the yearly 40 Hours Devotion in all the Philadelphia parishes. Although he in his humility did not consider himself worthy to be bishop of such a large diocese, Neumann proved himself to be an organized and capable administrator. He remained a caring pastor until the moment he died of a heart attack not far from the Cathedral on January 5th 1860. In our day as we welcome immigrants to our our country from all over the world, and as we view the plight of millions of refugees from violent wars in the Middle Wast and Africa, let us pray through the intercession of our immigrant Saint John Neumann to give us the heart, the means to welcome today's immigrants.

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