On January 5, 2011, I had the privilege of attending Mass at the Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia. Justin Cardinal Rigali celebrated the liturgy which marked the beginning of the Redemptorist’s celebration of the Neumann Year, which will end on June 23, 2012.
‘The witness of his life speaks in a particular way to our own age,’ said Baltimore Provincial Patrick Woods. ‘As political battles are waged about undocumented immigrants and our borders, we think of our saint who was a zealous pastor to waves of immigrants. St. John Neumann lived in an age of fierce anti-Catholicism; today, we face a spirit-sapping secularism. Educating our young people is a great challenge for us today as it was for the founder of the parochial school system’.
His first assignment was to teach catechism to German children. He was ordained on June 25, 1836 and was able to gave first Holy Communion to children he catechized. On the day of his ordination, he prayed that God would ‘give me holiness, and to all the living and dead, pardon, that some day we may be all together with You, our dearest God.’ He ministered in upstate New York, traveling to all of the little villages and hamlets that had Catholics.