The sacrament of Holy Orders is at the service of the communion of the church. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Today is the feast of St. John Neumann, a saintly bishop and holy priest. The US Catholic Catechism for Adults presents him as an example of what the Sacrament of Holy Orders means. Priests, bishops and deacons are at the service of the church.
Born in Bohemia in 1811, John Neumann studied in the seminary there where he grew interested in the new lands of the United States of America. Arriving in New York, he was accepted for ordination at 24 by Bishop Dubois and sent to the northern parts of his diocese then experiencing explosive growth because of the newly built Eire Canal.
The young priest, zealous and able to speak a number of languages, worked among the many new immigrants looking for work and a new life in the vast area opened by the canal. He worked tirelessly establishing churches and new parishes, and wore himself out in the immense task.
He joined the Redemptorist Order seeking the support and stability that a religious order provided. Still, he was called to continue to build up the church in these new lands and traveled extensively through the northeastern United States establishing parishes, preaching and catechizing an immigrant people.
In 1852 he was appointed bishop of Philadelphia and worked tirelessly in that diocese as its shepherd. He built over 100 new schools and 50 churches there until his death in 1860. Convinced of the need for good instruction in the faith, he wrote two catechisms, preached continuously, administered the sacraments and established the Forty Hours Devotion in his diocese.
John Neumann is an example of a priest at the service of the communion of the Church. He came from a church well established in Europe to a church being built in the United States. He worked to build that new church.
We need priests like him today.
O God, who called the Bishop Saint John Neumann,
renowned for his charity and pastoral service,
to shepherd your people in America,
grant by his intercession
that, as we foster the Christian education of youth
and are strengthened by the witness of brotherly love,
we may constantly increase the family of your Church.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.