When President Barack Obama visits the Holy Father tomorrow, he will present a stole worn by St. John Neumann, a 19th century Redemptorist priest who is the patron saint of sick children and immigrants.
“It’s a delight that something of one of our Redemptorist saints would be given to our Holy Father,” said Very Rev. Patrick Woods, provincial of the Redemptorists’ Baltimore Province. “We’re delighted as Americans that our president is visiting the Holy Father, and delighted that something belonging to our province would be given to him.”
The Redemptorists, founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori in 1732, are priests who minister to the needs of the faithful, particularly the poor and the spiritually abandoned. Currently there are 300 Redemptorist priests serving in the United States alone.
Fr. Woods further explained that the stole was an appropriate gift for the Pope as a symbol of the priesthood because that was “at the heart of St. John Neumann’s life as a Redemptorist.”
In light of Neumann’s extensive service to immigrants, Woods said the gift was also symbolic of the new wave of immigration occurring in the United States, and his order's continued service to these often marginalized and over-looked groups.
The stole was discovered by Louis DiCocco, president of the St. Jude Shops and the St. Jude Liturgical Arts Studio, who was contacted by the Obama administration for assistance in finding a gift for Pope Benedict.
“They wanted to find an antique chalice, but I suggested it was important to get something more personable,” DiCocco said. “I told them about this stole that was something that belonged to an immigrant who was so instrumental in serving immigrants and building Catholic schools. What better than the stole that represents the priest?”
St. John Neumann was born in 1811 in Bohemia, but traveled to New York to become a missionary priest. After his arrival, he was sent to Buffalo where he lived off bread and water and joined the Redemptorist order until he was elected Bishop of Philadelphia in 1852.
As bishop, John Neumann built 50 churches and nearly 100 schools. He died suddenly on January 5, 1860.
He was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977 and is the patron saint of sick children and immigrants.
For more information about the Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province, visit www.redemptorists.net.