Pope Francis accepts resignation of 75-year-old Chicago auxiliary bishop

Bishop John R. Manz Bishop John R. Manz, pictured in 2012. | Screenshot from YouTube channel of St. Norbert College.

Pope Francis on Thursday accepted the resignation of Chicago auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz, who has dedicated his priesthood to advocating for immigrants.

Bishop Manz turned 75 in November, the age at which bishops are required to send a resignation letter to the pope.

He was one of eight auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Chicago, which serves 2.2 million Catholics in northeast Illinois. Cardinal Blase Cupich, 72, is the archbishop of Chicago.

Manz celebrated his 50th anniversary of priesthood and 25th anniversary as a bishop in May.

He told the archdiocesan newspaper Chicago Catholic that he had always felt welcomed by members of the Hispanic community.

“I have been able to develop friendships with them and understand their issues, many times not seen by the media. My involvement with them has made me a better priest and a better person,” he said.

The Chicago native has been living at Good Shepherd Parish in Little Village, a neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, with a large foreign-born Mexican population, where 80% of residents are of Mexican descent.

In 2006, Manz wrote about how he first became interested in migrant worker rights. In an essay on the Chicago archdiocese website, he explained that during college seminary, he was assigned to work in the kitchen, where a group of religious sisters from Mexico did the cooking.

“So over the course of the next couple of years, they basically taught me Spanish and that started my interest,” he wrote. “About the same time, I worked with a landscaping outfit in the summers to help pay my expenses, and a lot of the men I worked with were migrants, Mexican Americans from Texas or Mexico.”

“They were a big contrast to the sisters. Their whole outlook on life and their vocabulary was very different, and that piqued my interest even more,” he added.

Manz said he also worked at a parish in north Chicago that focused on migrant workers and he went out to California at the height of the grape strike in 1968. He also lived in a border town in Texas for one summer.

“These kinds of experiences continued until I was ordained a priest. I have been working with immigrants/migrants since before I was ordained a priest and also for the 10 years I have been a bishop,” he wrote in 2006.

“Like the migrants, I too come from a humble background. My people are from farms and small towns,” he said.

“When I was a kid I spent a lot of time on the farm with my grandmother who was a very simple farm lady. Maybe it goes back to that. I learned from her and from others in my family that this is the way you look at the world, and that the work you do is not better or worse than anyone else.”

He added: “It’s hard to get an exalted opinion of yourself, working on a farm, when you are standing knee-deep in manure.”

Manz is currently chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers, as well as a member of the Diversity in the Church Committee and the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America.

In these capacities, he has traveled to different U.S. states with a significant Hispanic presence to speak with and minister to migrant workers. He has also traveled to countries in Latin America, including Panama, where he lived for six months.

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Manz told Chicago Catholic in May that “there are many problems at the border, with people coming from Central America. The new administration has been open to finding improvements in solving these immigration problems, but I don’t think they are prepared. It is important to start over with new structures, especially to solve the case with minors.”

Before his ordination as an auxiliary bishop for Chicago in 1996, Manz was known to parishioners as “Fr. Juan.”

“The work as a priest has never been easy, but I feel very fortunate,” he said. “I have had many experiences; I have never been bored and I think it is because I like people. As a priest, I believe I have received more than I have given.”

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