Bishop John Manz: 50 years a priest, 25 years a bishop

By Ely Segura | Católico
Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Bishop John Manz: 50 years a priest, 25 years a bishop

Auxiliary Bishop John Manz celebrates his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood and 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop in 2021. Here we look back at some moments in Bishop Manz's ministry. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz tours a farmworker community with worker advocates Lucas Benitez, left, and Gerardo Reyes Chávez in Immokolee, Fla., Nov. 3, 2004. (CNS photo by Ed Foster Jr.)
Bishop Manz listens to a confirmation candidate answer a question at St. Adalbert Church, 1650 W. 17th St., on June 6, 2009. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz joins faithful from combined parishes in the Pilsen neighborhood to celebrate a community Mass at the Resurrection Project (old St. Vitus Church plaza) at the corner of Paulina Street and 18th Place on Aug. 27, 2010. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks on the purpose of the day as Catholics joined people from different denominations at First Baptist Congregational Church, 1613 W. Washington Blvd., for a rally focusing on immigration and human rights on Jan. 16, 2010. To the right of him is Bishop Manz. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz blesses the construction site for a new parish center at St. Aloysius Church, 2300 W. LeMoyne St., on June 19, 2011. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz celebrates Mass at Ronan Park (located at Sacramento & Ainslie Streets in Chicago) to launch an Archdiocesan-wide 40 Days of Prayer, Fasting and Action for Congress as part of Our Lady of Mercy Parish’s actions for immigration reform on Aug.15, 2013. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz talks to migrant worker after celebrating Mass in a barn on a tomato farm with workers in Steele, Alabama on Oct. 24, 2013. Bishop Manz toured Alabama Oct. 21-24 to visit migrant workers on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz joins participants during an immigration posada in downtown Chicago on Dec. 19, 2014. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz speaks to a group of deacons and their wives during the Diaconate Convocation Feb. 21-23, 2014, in Schaumburg. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz presides over a blessing and send-off ceremony of over 1,300 stuffed animals that were donated for Central American unaccompanied children on at the Cardinal Meyer Center in Chicago on Oct. 15, 2014. The stuffed animals were transported to the Children’s Village, an affiliate of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz smiles after receiving the gifts from a religious education student during a Mass celebrating the 125th anniversary of St. Catherine of Sienna-St. Lucy Church and School in Oak Park on Oct 19, 2014. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz presides during a Mass celebrating the blessing and dedication of “Christ the Mount” at Our Lady of the Mount Parish in Cicero on Nov. 1, 2015. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz questions catechumens during a rite of election liturgy at Holy Name Cathedral on Feb. 14, 2016. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz blesses Maria Jimenez and her three children Mauricio (baby), Juan and Andrea after celebrating Mother’s Day Mass for Expectant Mothers in Spanish at St. Joseph Parish, 1723 W. 48th St., on May 8, 2016. (Karen Callaway/ Chicago Catholic)
Stallion Manager Richard Barry shows American Pharaoh to Bishop Manz. The horse, which won the Triple Crown in 2015, lives on Ashford Farm where he earns $200,000 for each breeding session. Bishop Manz made a pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops the week of Sept. 19-22, 2016. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz learns what it is like to cut a tobacco plant at the Barton Tobacco and Corn Farm in Lexington, Ky., on Sept. 22, 2016. Bishop Manz made a pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops the week of Sept. 19-22, 2016. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz celebrates Mass for workers at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington, Ky., on Sept. 22, 2016. He made a pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Sept. 19-22, 2016. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz leads eucharistic adoration during Holy Fire at UIC Pavilion on Oct. 14, 2016. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz celebrates a Mass honoring the visit of relics of St. Pio Pietrelcina, more commonly known as Padre Pio, at St. Francis Borgia Church, 8033 W. Addison St. on Sept. 25, 2017. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz blesses the keys to the new St. Joseph Chapel at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines on April 21, 2018. The blessing took place prior to an inaugural Mass at the chapel. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz presides at a commissioning ceremony for 21 members of Iskali, a community of young Latino Catholics, at Misión San Juan Diego in Arlington Heights on April 28, 2018. Bishop Manz has been a supporter of the group since its inception. The group named its center in Maywood after the bishop. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz shares a lighthearted moment following Mass with Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, one of the keynote speakers during Holy Fire at the UIC Pavilion on Oct. 26, 2018. More than 10,000 young people from five states came together on Oct. 26 or Oct. 27 to dance, laugh, pray and worship, all in the context of deepening their faith. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz fist bumps altar servers after the final procession for a Vicariate IV Altar Server Appreciation Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Melrose Park on March 30, 2019. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz prays over participants from Vicariate IV during an afternoon prayer service on Sept 6, 2019 as part of a Renew My Church Vision Day at St. John Brebeuf Church in Niles. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Manz, one of the co-consecrators during ordination, shares the sign of peace with Bishop Kevin Birmingham during the ordination of Birmingham and Bishops Jeffrey Grob and Robert Lombardo, CFR on the feast of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, Nov. 13, 2020, at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Fifty years after being ordained to the priesthood, Auxiliary Bishop John Manz still lives among the Hispanic immigrant community that he has served for his entire ministry.

Bishop Manz, who resides at Good Shepherd Parish in Little Village, celebrates a half-century of priesthood and a quarter-century as a bishop on May 12. He now serves as auxiliary bishop of Vicariate IV, which includes near west suburbs of Chicago as well as parts of the West and Northwest sides.

At 75, he has sent a letter of resignation to Pope Francis as required by canon law, but he will continue to minister until it is accepted.

“I have always felt very welcomed by Hispanics,” said Bishop Manz, a Chicago native. “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. 

“My first parish [Providence of God] was in the Pilsen neighborhood, on 18th Street. It’s not there anymore. I was there for seven years,” Manz remembered. “Back then, it was a poor area. I became very fond of that parish. I got there when I was 25 years old. It was 1971, a time when people began to talk about the rights of Hispanics, of Chicanos. I remember having participated in marches and protests for their rights.”

His work as an advocate for immigrant rights has earned the affection of parishioners and leaders alike.

“Since the beginning of our ministry, not just Pastoral Migratoria in 2008, but also the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform in 2005, Bishop Manz has been a leader who has accompanied us during ups and downs,” said Elena Segura, associate director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity. “I call him the ‘godfather of Pastoral Migratoria.’”

Bishop Manz’s vocation has also inspired others to discern whether they are called to priesthood. “Bishop Manz was my pastor at St. Agnes Parish when I was young and, together with Father Mike Enright, he invited me to consider entering the seminary and to discern if I had a vocation to priesthood,” said Father Esequiel Sánchez, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines.

As a priest, Bishop Manz — known to parishioners as “Father Juan” — served at Providence of God, St. Roman and St. Agnes of Bohemia parishes. Then, in 1996, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

As a bishop, he has advocated for justice and dignity for his vulnerable brothers and sisters, serving as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers and as a member of the Diversity in the Church Committee and the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America.

His responsibilities took him to 15 states with significant Hispanic presence, to minister to and speak with migrant workers, to listen to them. He visited workers in Kentucky and Alabama, and also traveled to Latin American countries, including Panama, where he spent half a year.

The situation of migrants in the United States continues to be a pastoral priority for Bishop Manz. It is a topic he speaks about with concern and disappointment.

“There are many problems at the border, with people coming from Central America,” Bishop Manz said. “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.”

When it comes to the local church, he said the Renew My Church process and the accompanying reduction in the number of parishes has been painful, but necessary, as the archdiocese moves to create more vital parishes.

“Over the years there have been fewer people attending churches,” Bishop Manz said. “There are fewer people, fewer priests, less income, and many buildings in need of repairs. It causes pain everywhere. Although this has brought a lot of pain, sadness, concern, or anger among parishioners, most of them are faithful, and they accept it despite the difficulty.”

Despite the mandatory confinement that everybody has experienced to some extent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop Manz’s work has not stopped.

“During the quarantine we couldn’t travel, nor could I go to the office until just a couple of months ago, but we have had many meetings through Zoom,” said Bishop Manz said, who also maintains his pastoral involvement with the priests in Little Village.

Now, Bishop Manz looks at his priestly journey of half a century with satisfaction and gratitude.

“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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