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The National Shrine of Saint John Neumann Print E-mail
Written by Fr. Matthew Allman, CSsR   

January 2015

Managing Editor Elizabeth Herzing interviews Fr. Matthew Allman, CSsR, about the ministry at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann.

Q. What is the history of St. John Neumann?

A. Saint John Neumann, a Bohemian missionary born in 1811, came to the United States in 1836 seeking to serve the growing Catholic immigrant population. As a seminarian for his home diocese, located in the modern Czech Republic, Neumann had read about the plight of German-speaking Catholics in America who were in danger of losing their faith because of a lack of priests and parishes that could serve their spiritual needs. A native speaker of German, he felt God calling him to help. So after completing studies for the priesthood, he sailed to New York. The bishop of New York was delighted to receive this zealous young missionary. He ordained Neumann and sent him to minister to the people settling in the frontier territory around Buffalo. Neumann wandered the northern woods of New York State for four years, ministering among the pioneers.

In the 1830s, as the Cathol ic population in the United States surged, Catholics were met with resistance and resentment by many of their fellow Americans. In fact, the first time that Neumann attempted to celebrate Mass in Williamsville, New York, some of his non-Catholic neighbors tried to break up the celebration by throwing rocks through the unfinished roof of the small wooden church. Dur ing the summer of 1840, Neumann fell ill and couldn’t work for three months; he knew something had to change. Some years earlier, during a trip to Rochester, New York, Neumann met the American superior of the Redemptorists, Fr. Joseph Prost, who encouraged Neumann to consider joining the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Redemptorists. He relayed the physical, moral, and spiritual support that Neumann could receive living the religious life with the Redemptorist community. Although Neumann wasn’t initially moved by the offer, as time wore on, the suggestion seemed like a message from God. In 1842, Neumann professed his religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and became a Redemptorist. He worked with his new brothers first in their German- speaking parishes in Baltimore and Pittsburgh and then as the superior of their American mission, a post he held from 1847–1849. He was a parish priest again from 1849–1852.


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Family Promise Print E-mail
Written by Chris Kaul   

Managing Editor Elizabeth Herzing interviews Chris Kaul of Family Promise about its mission to build communities and strengthen lives.

Q What is the history of Family Promise? How did it get started?

A In 1981, Karen Olson, a marketing executive who developed promotional campaigns for consumer products, saw a homeless woman whom she’d seen over and over again on her way to work. She stopped to buy a sandwich for the woman. The stranger accepted but asked for something more—a moment of her time—to be heard, comforted, and to be considered as more than a mere statistic on a cold street corner. Emotionally charged by the incident, Olson and her two young sons began to visit New York regularly to hand out sandwiches to the homeless. Through her frequent interaction, she came to know some of the city’s homeless personally and began to understand the profound loss and disconnection they felt. Olson learned there were hundreds of homeless people, including families, in her home community of Union County, New Jersey. Convinced that others shared her concern and that together they could accomplish great things, she turned to the religious community in her hometown of Summit for help. Within ten months, eleven area congregations came forward to provide hospitality space within their buildings. The local YMCA agreed to provide showers and a day center for families. A car dealer discounted a van. On October 27, 1986, the first Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) opened. As word spread, ten more congregations formed a second network. Programs for transitional housing, child care, and family mentoring followed—all outgrowths of increased awareness and involvement. The success of the first networks led other congregations to develop similar programs. In 1988, National Interfaith Hospitality Network was formed. In 2003, the organization changed its name to Family Promise to reflect a broader range of programs and reaffirm its core commitment to helping families realize their own potential.


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