By Fr. Brian Fallon | Assistant Director of Vocations
Priest shortage? Not in 1800’s Bohemia!
Hi, I’m Fr. Brian Fallon from the Vocation Office, and my jaw dropped onto my Roman Collar when I learned St. John Neumann was denied ordination because his home diocese had too many priests!
January 5 is the feast day of St. John Neumann (b. 1811), not to be confused with Blessed John Henry Newman (I do that a lot). Flustered at being denied, John Neumann headed to the United States, and was ordained a priest of New York in 1836. As a parish priest and later as a Redemptorist, Fr. Neumann found his ministry in America as challenging as it was rewarding.
Fast forward to 1852 as Neumann becomes bishop of Philadelphia. His diocese was bustling with European immigrants and troubled by anti-Catholic violence. Neumann created scores of new churches, and while he’s probably upset I found this on Wikipedia, was the first bishop in America to create a diocesan school system. St. John Neumann served as bishop for 8 years until his death at age 48 (yikes).
Ok, this is all nice, but every time I think of Philly all I can remember is my dreaded Cheese Steak mishap. And besides, how does Neumann’s story stand out as something significant for the Archdiocese of St. Louis?
How about as encouragement for our new beOne initiative? It may seem like Immaculate Conceptions in Arnold, Old Monroe, Dardenne Prairie, Maplewood, and Park Hills are far apart from each other, but they would’ve been in the same parish boundaries in St. John Neumann’s first assignment!
We need to start thinking like a parish family, not just parishes our kids compete against or places with alternate Mass times. If we learn how to foster a Culture of Leadership and Missionary Discipleship in our parishes, we can truly work together to invite others to receive Jesus’ love. If we can’t work together, we might as well ride with Bishop Neumann in a manure wagon. It happened!
How about Promoting Human Dignity and Social Responsibility? St. John saw repeated persecution of his people because they were immigrants. He learned their languages and sought to unite all cultures as the Body of Christ.
I’m certain St. John is beaming with joy at our efforts to secure Catholic education in our archdiocese as well. Under his leadership, Philadelphia increased its Catholic schools from 1 to 200! His passion for education of children in the faith should serve as an example to us in our efforts.
And I don’t think it’s out of line to make a vocations pitch here! Neumann knew his calling and kept at it, despite the risks and ridicule. His efforts—and ours—are only as good as the foundation of prayer upon which they’re laid. Let’s support future Neumanns by encouraging our youth to be open to God’s call and to deepen their relationship with the Lord. Contact me if you feel called; this isn’t 1800’s Bohemia, so we don’t turn away those God is calling!
During these 12 days of Christmas and on St. John’s feast day, let’s ask this American saint for his continued intercession and guidance as how best to follow Christ Jesus.
This is the eleventh in a 12-day series of posts with the purpose of helping readers deepen their appreciation for, and celebration of, the 12 Days of Christmas, a season which traditionally concludes with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.