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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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More than 250 attend prayer service for immigrants

More than 250 people from a variety of ethnic and faith backgrounds gathered November 11 at the Shrine of St. John Neumann at St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia for a prayer service for immigrants. Gathered around the earthly remains of the patron saint of immigrants, participants prayed for all those who have come to the U.S. in search of better opportunities, especially those who are unjustly treated.

“It was basically a time to learn about St. John Neumann, the immigrant’s bishop, to listen to God’s Word and to hear testimonies from immigrants — documented and undocumented,” said Redemptorist Father John Olenick, associate pastor of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, and one of the evening’s organizers.

The prayer service drew people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds including Hispanic, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Filipino. Testimonies were offered in English and Spanish, including one from Rabbi Linda Holtzman. The rosary was prayed in Vietnamese as participants placed lit candles at the tomb of St. John Neumann. Father Olenick said all in attendance were invited to take a fortune cookie home with them at the end of the evening as a symbol of the many vibrant immigrant communities within Philadelphia.

Other local organizers included Bethany Welch of the Providence Center, Medical Missionary Sr. Barbara Brigham, and Peter Pedemonti, co-director of the non-profit immigration rights advocacy organization New Sanctuary Movement.

Similar prayer services are being planned for 2011 when the Redemptorists celebrate the 200th birthday of St. John Neumann — a Redemptorist, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, and the first male American saint.

The Redemptorists were founded in 1732 with a special mission to serve the poor and most spiritually abandoned. They came to the United States in 1832 to serve the needs of the flourishing Irish and German immigrant communities along the East Coast. Today, Redemptorists in the Baltimore Province continue that tradition of service to the poor and abandoned, serving immigrant communities in several parishes in Brooklyn, NY, the Bronx, NY, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.