On the Jan. 5 feast of St. John Neumann, the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia, his name sake parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia marked the occasion in a special way that would make its patron proud.
On Tuesday St. John Neumann Parish at 380 Highland Lane in Bryn Mawr held all-day exposition of the Blessed Sacrament following its 8 a.m. daily Mass until a holy hour from 6 to 7 p.m.
The annual celebration at the parish includes a schedule of events that varies from year to year. But this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, parish liturgies have been presented on YouTube and the holy hour was livestreamed on Facebook for those parishioners who were not comfortable coming to the church.
“We find a lot of people attending our livestreamed services,” said Clare Frissora, parish services director. “It’s a way people can participate in these unusual times.”
In addition to the feast day itself, a novena to St. John Neumann began on Sunday, Dec. 27, the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Novena prayers were said at each Mass and pamphlets were available in the church vestibule so people could pray the prayers privately.
Parishioners had the opportunity to sign up for a half-hour or hour time slot for the exposition on Jan. 5 as the goal was to have someone in church praying before the Blessed Sacrament at all times. It worked. Christ in the sanctuary was never alone for a moment. A total of 17 people signed up for the different slots and as the day progressed, and others came to spend a little time in adoration.
“We always want our Lord in the presence of someone,” said Frissora.
Deacon Kevin Harrington presided over the holy hour that included readings from Scripture, time to pray in word and song and ended with benediction.
Frissora was moved by his research on the saintly Redemptorist Father John Neumann, born in Bohemia in 1811, died Jan. 5, 1860 and canonized a saint June 19, 1977. Despite not wanting to be a figure of authority, Father Neumann received word that he was named bishop of Philadelphia. He was stricken by this and prayed all night long.
Nevertheless, local clergy and laity believed he was a good choice for the position. He was consecrated a bishop March 28, 1852 and would shepherd the Diocese of Philadelphia until his sudden death at age 48.
He is credited with founding the Catholic school system in the United States and fostering eucharistic adoration in parishes, especially through the 40 hours devotion.
“He was more comfortable in poverty, in the country, helping the poor farmers and miners in the mountains that were truly rich in faith and love for each other,” said Frissora.
An ensemble provided music for the benediction and Father Michael Matz, pastor, sang Psalm 40 (“Here I Am Lord, I Come to Do Your Will”), a very suitable selection that recalls the orientation of St. John Neumann life in following God’s will.
Deacon Harrington proclaimed the Gospel and preached a poignant homily.
“May we fulfill the wishes of the Holy Father; whatever, whenever and wherever they may be,” he said.
Father Matz was available for the sacrament of reconciliation during and after the holy hour. About 40 people came to the service with 56 joining live by Facebook.
The day stood as a testament to faith in the Lord amidst COVID-19 and offered an opportunity for people to reflect and pray as the liturgical season of Christmas draws to a close this Sunday.
Prayer to St. John Neumann
God of the Journey, through the intercession of St. John Neumann, patron of immigrants, we pray for those who leave their homelands longing for freedom and new opportunities.
May they recognize you as their traveling companion and find a welcome awaiting them.
We make this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.
O Jesus, who on earth commanded and practiced a hidden life, grant that in these our days of pride and outward display, the example of your servant John Neumann may lead us to follow your humble ways.
Grant, O Lord, that like your holy bishop we may do all our work with the pure intention of pleasing you and let not our deeds be done to win the favor of others but to give glory to our Father in heaven.
We thank you that our fellow citizen and devoted missionary bishop is recognized among the saints of your Church in heaven, and we beseech you, O Lord, to glorify him on earth by granting the favors we ask through his intercession. Amen.
(Courtesy the National Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia)
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