Looking back at the life of Bishop John Manz, 1945-2023

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Looking back at the life of Bishop John Manz, 1945-2023

Retired Auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz, 77, died July 15. Bishop Manz was active for his 52 years as a priest and 27 years as a bishop in ministry to Hispanic Catholics, and a national leader in ministry to migrants.
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 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)

Retired Auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz, 77, died July 15. Bishop Manz was active for his 52 years as a priest and 27 years as a bishop in ministry to Hispanic Catholics, and a national leader in ministry to migrants.

“From his days as a college seminarian Bishop John Manz grasped the meaning of authentic ministry,” Cardinal Cupich said in a statement July 17. “‘It is not an abstraction,” he noted. ‘It begins by getting

to know people. We all have our prejudices or stereotypes, but the only way to break them down is by getting to know the person. I am a big believer in a common humanity.’ Let us pray that all those preparing

for ministry will take those words to heart and in that way keep fresh the memory of this great priest and pastor.”

Bishop Manz was known to be down to earth, quick to laugh and joke, with a listening ear and an understanding heart.

“The man is just loved by everybody,” said Father Esequiel Sánchez, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines. “He was not hard to love. He was very fatherly to everybody and he had this jovial attitude.”

“There are very few figures in the archdiocese who have the respect and love of everyone, of all the Latino priests, and that would be Bishop Manz,” agreed Father Sergio Rivas, pastor of Cristo Rey Parish and coordinator of the Consejo Hispano.

Bishop Manz grew up in Chicago and in the suburbs, attending St. Matthias School on the North Side and St. Martha School in Morton Grove before entering Quigley Preparatory Seminary.

He learned Spanish while a student at Niles College Seminary, working in the kitchen with religious sisters from Mexico and working on landscaping crews in the summer. While in seminary, he spent two months in the Valley of Texas and six months at the archdiocese’s San Miguelito Mission in Panama, further improving his language skills.

Upon being ordained a priest in 1971, he became associate pastor of Providence of God Parish on 18th Street in Pilsen. In a 2021 interview with Chicago Catholic, he said Cardinal John Cody was against the assignment because Cardinal Cody did not like sending new priests to the “inner city.”

But Bishop Manz said the seven years he spent there formed him as a priest.

“It wasn’t easy at the beginning, but no place is easy at the beginning,” he said. “The people have to know as time goes on that you love them and care about them. The only way you can do that is day-in day-out listening to people. You really have to listen. You have to let people tell their story to you, and you have to make

time for that. … In a very poor community, people didn’t go to a psychiatrist or things like that, especially in a Hispanic community. They come to a parish priest.”

He was also associate pastor at St. Roman Parish before spending 13 years as pastor of St. Agnes of Bohemia Parish in Little Village. In 1996, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop.

“I tried to follow in his footsteps even before I was ordained,” said Father Don Nevins, administrator of St. Procopius Parish. Nevins, ordained in 1975, wanted to do his diaconate ministry in Panama, like Bishop Manz did, but he couldn’t get permission, he said. But his first assignment after ordination was at St. Ann in

Pilsen, while Bishop Manz was at Providence of God.

“He was about the only young priest in that whole cluster of parishes,” Nevins said. “He was already somewhat of a name in the Pilsen area because of the good work he did with the people.”

Nevins went on to be pastor of St. Agnes of Bohemia, where parishioners continued to revere Bishop Manz.

It was at St. Agnes that Sánchez encountered Bishop Manz, when Sánchez was 15 years old. Sánchez was not considering the priesthood until Bishop Manz and associate pastor Father Michael Enright encouraged him to think about it, he said.

“I’m totally heartbroken,” said Sánchez, speaking from Poland, where he was on a trip to visit Auschwitz and other sites. “So many people in the archdiocese of Chicago have a story to tell about John Manz. He was always a supportive character, especially when priests felt they needed someone to really talk to and bring issues to.”

As a bishop, Bishop Manz served mostly in Vicariate III, where he had served as a priest, and for a few years in Vicariate IV. Both include areas with many Hispanic Catholics. For years, he was the episcopal liaison to the Hispanic Catholic community.

Nelly Lorenzo, director of the Instituto de Liderazgo Pastoral at the University

of St. Mary of the Lake, said Bishop Manz had “a Hispanic heart.” The institute provides

education and formation to Spanish-speaking Catholics preparing for lay ecclesial ministry, catechetical leadership and the permanent diaconate.

“Bishop Manz created a space of trust for everyone who approached him to entrust him with some important situation,” Lorenzo said. “He had the ability to listen, understand and sympathize with those who were by his side. This made him become one of the people.”

Auxiliary Bishop Kevin Birmingham, who succeeded Bishop Manz in Vicariate IV when Bishop Manz retired in 2021, was a seminarian when he was assigned to St. Agnes of Bohemia for a summer while Bishop Manz was pastor.

“Having served under his pastoral leadership as a seminarian, I quickly learned that Bishop Manz was a soul of God,” Bishop Birmingham said. “As a beneficiary of his mentoring as a seminarian, I came to appreciate and fully understand that his support of vocations to the priesthood was made possible through his faith in Jesus

Christ and his love of serving others and in sharing this faith.

“When he was ordained a bishop, he brought his keen pastoral abilities to the larger church here in Chicago and across the United States. When I was ordained a bishop, of which he was a co-consecrator, I followed him as vicar of Vicariate IV. He continued to mentor me with weekly phone calls, always affirming the need to be present to all people and to treat everyone as a cherished child of God. This lesson and witness, I hope to

never forget.”

Auxiliary Bishop Robert Casey, vicar general of the archdiocese, was also inspired by the time he spent at St. Agnes when Bishop Manz was pastor.

“He and his associate pastors, together with the Pias [the sisters who served in the parish] and the people of the parish, were a significant part of my being able to say ‘yes’ to God’s call to priesthood,” Bishop Casey said.

Rivas, who coordinates Consejo Hispano, was born in Colombia, and came to the archdiocese eight years ago as a Benedictine.

He was incardinated as an archdiocesan priest in 2020. Bishop Manz saw potential in him and encouraged him to take on responsibility, he said.

“He saw something in me, and he challenged me in a good way,” Rivas said.

Bishop Manz was advised when he first became a bishop to join a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee to better get to know his brother bishops, he told Chicago Catholic in 2021. He took that

advice, serving on the USCCB’s Committee on Migration and Refugee Services, as chairman and then as a member of the Committee on the Church in Latin America, as chairman of the Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees and Travelers, as chairman of the administrative committee and as

a member of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

He also helped develop immigration ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago, said Elena Segura, senior coordinator for immigration —national ministry. Bishop Manz had been planning to come and

give the closing blessing at the Pastoral Migratoria National Institute on July 29.

“He really is the godfather of Pastoral Migratoria,” Segura said, referring to the parish-based immigrant-to-immigrant ministry model developed in Chicago that is now being used in several dioceses around the country. “He was there at its inception. He came to every institute.”

Bishop Manz supported the national Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform when it started in 2005, pushing for comprehensive immigration reform legislation, and his support did not waver when the legislation failed and the effort eventually became known as Justice for Immigrants. The Archdiocese of Chicago maintained its leadership role in both advocacy and direct ministry.

“He embodied Catholic social teaching just by being a bishop for ‘el pueblo,’ for the people,” Segura said. His way of living simply, among his people, was like Pope Francis, she said, but Bishop Manz

had been doing it since long before Francis became pope.

In a 2021 interview, Bishop Manz said he was grateful for his vocation.

“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.”

Bishop Manz is survived by his sister, Linda Manz, and three nieces.

Funeral services will take place at Holy Name Cathedral. Visitation will be July 25, 2-9 p.m. A rosary will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a vigil starting at 7 p.m. The funeral Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Cupich July 26 at 10 a.m.


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