Diocesan News

Enjoy the Walk with Bishop Neil

By Father James Price, C.P.

Anyone who knows Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P., well knows that he loves to walk. Wherever he has been stationed as a Passionist priest, he faithfully takes his long daily walk as a time to reflect, study, prepare his homily, exercise or simply to be near God’s people.

This was no different in Mandeville, Jamaica, West Indies, where Bishop Neil has been for the last eight years. If you lived in Mandeville, you would always see Bishop Neil taking his daily walk.

His physical walk is an icon of his ministry as a missionary bishop. When Pope Francis was elected and came out on the loggia to bless the people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, he spoke about the bishop and people walking on a journey together. This is how I saw Bishop Neil’s ministry in the Diocese of Mandeville.

As a Passionist, Bishop Neil took the charism of walking with the crucified in Jamaica very seriously. His focus of any initiative was making sure that God’s people knew that the Lord was walking with them especially when they suffered.

One of the practices that Bishop Neil began was accompanying a different priest every first Friday to visit the homebound. The first place that he would go to was the poorest and furthest parish in the diocese called Pisgah, high up in the mountains. He visited some families one particular day and could not believe the condition of their homes and began the Pisgah housing project where the diocese was able to build proper housing for the poorest people in the most remote regions.

Bishop Neil, second from right, is shown with the members of the Passionist community of Jamaica, West Indies. Father James Price, C.P., is second from left.
Bishop Neil, second from right, is shown with the members of the Passionist community of Jamaica, West Indies. Father James Price, C.P., is second from left.

One particular day he visited a family with the parish priest and saw a young man with an intellectual disability tied to the bedpost like an animal. Bishop Neil was able to place the young man in one of the homes for young people with severe disabilities called Mustard Seed and gave this young man some dignity.

Bishop Neil also began the biblical animation of all pastoral life project in the diocese. It was based on the program of biblical animation that the bishops of the Caribbean joined in with the bishops of Latin America where the people of every parish were encouraged to begin a weekly prayer meeting in the form of Lectio Divina (sacred reading) and focus on how the Gospel for the next Sunday was speaking to the people’s lives today.

Bishop Neil and a team of lay people began these weekly prayer groups in every parish in the Diocese of Mandeville.

Accompanying him on several of these visits, I saw how Bishop Neil would always emphasize with the people, how God speaks to us right now and how we are called to respond to that Living Word. He always pointed out that God’s Word was alive, active and was a companion on our journey of faith.

As Bishop Neil returns to his home Diocese of Brooklyn where he learned how to walk, pray and to be a Passionist priest, he brings his love of walking to a place that is familiar to him. Now as an auxiliary bishop the entire diocese becomes part of his daily walk of faith.

In the words of another Brooklyn native, Sister Ita Ford, M.M., one of the four women martyrs of El Salvador, “The challenge that we live daily with is to enter into the paschal mystery with faith. Am I willing to suffer with the people here, the suffering of the powerless? Can I say to my neighbors, ‘I have no solution to this situation, I don’t know the answers, but I will walk with you, search with you, be with you.’”

Bishop Neil comes home to Brooklyn to walk with you and remind you of God’s great love for you in the Passion of His Son who walks with us each step of this journey of faith in hope. I hope you enjoy the walk.

Father James Price, C.P., is the former director of Archbishop Molloy Retreat House, Jamaica, Queens. For the past several years, he has been serving as director of evangelization for the Diocese of Mandeville.