Pilgrimage to Shrine of St. John Neumann
The Residents’ outing on February 10 was a real pilgrimage. As soon as our Activities Director, Kelly Caden, AJJ, got behind the wheel of our bus, she put on the Rosary CD to begin our prayerful journey to North Philadelphia. Their destination was the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia who was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977 as the first male American “to be raised to the altars.”
For us pilgrims from Holy Family Home, Bishop Neumann was personally important in many ways:
- The majority of us are grateful to him for our Philadelphia Catholic education, since he organized the first parochial school system in the country. They were taught by numerous Congregations of Religious Sisters and Brothers whom he brought to staff these schools in the early 1900’s. He is the founder of the Franciscan Sisters of Philadelphia who are still present at Neumann University as well.
- For those of us who are immigrants or children of immigrant families, Bishop Neumann stands out as the patron of pastoral concern for those arriving from distant lands and a model of inculturation for all missionaries. Along with ministering to German-speaking immigrants, he mastered English, and even learned Gaelic so he could make the Sacrament of Reconciliation available to the Irish. Lily M. smiled from ear to ear when she heard that!
- For Little Sisters of the Poor, he shows the way of humble service for consecrated religious. He died on the street running an errand of charity, and requested to be buried with his fellow Redemptorists rather than at the Cathedral.
- For Mary A, Bishop Neumann is venerated as a powerful intercessor. She worked in the Office of his Shrine for 17 years, so she was able to tell us many stories about wonderful graces and responses to needs confided to Bishop Neumann’s prayer.
- For Dorothy G. because, during her Freshman Year, she attended classes at the Annex for Hallahan Catholic High at St. Peter’s School, right there at the Shrine of St. John Neumann. So great was the enrollment at Hallahan in 1941 that annexes had to be set up at various parishes to accommodate the overflow. Dorothy said she spent many a free period praying to the beloved Bishop.
On the way home, the pilgrims discussed how touched they were to witness the faith of the people praying at the tomb of St. John Neumann, especially a young woman trying to control an over-active little boy and a weeping woman bent over in prayer. The frolicking of children in the parish school next door also struck them as an ongoing testimony of the work of the fourth bishop of Philadelphia. They thanked God for continuing to bless our Archdiocese.