John Nepomucene Neumann was born in 1811 in Bohemia (Now known as the Czech Republic) to Philip and Agnes Neumann. An excellent student, John early felt drawn to religious life. As a seminarian at Budweis, Bohemia, he studied astronomy and botany, in addition to theology. He studied theology at Charles Ferdinand University at Prague in 1833.
When his ordination date arrived, the Bishop was ill and the date was never rescheduled, as Bohemia had an over-abundance of priests at that time. John decided to go to the United States to seek ordination there. He walked most of the way to France, and then took a ship to the United States.
He arrived in New York in 1836, and Bishop John Dubois was elated to see him as there were only 36 priests for the 200,000 Catholics in New York and New Jersey. He was ordained on June 28, 1836 by Bishop Dubois at the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The following week, John was sent to minister to the German speaking immigrants who were clearing the forests by Niagara Falls.
In 1840, he joined the Redemptorist order. Eight years later he became a United States citizen. In 1852, he was consecrated Bishop of Philadelphia. As bishop, he organized the parochial school system into a diocesan one, increasing the number of pupils almost twentyfold within a short time. He was responsible for the building of 100 churches and 80 schools. He also wrote two catechisms and many newspaper articles.
One of the highlights of Saint John Neumann’s life was his participation, in Rome, in the Proclamation of the Dogma of our Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception. Through his efforts, the Forty Hours Devotion was introduced in the Philadelphia Diocese. He founded the first church in America for Italian-speaking people. He also founded the Glen Riddle group of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis.John died in Philadelphia at the age of 48 on January 5, 1860. He was canonized on June 17, 1977 by Pope Paul XVI and was the first male canonized saint from the United States.
Saint John Neumann Quotes:
“A man must always be ready, for death comes when and where God wills it.”
“Since every man of whatever race is endowed with the dignity of a person, he has an inalienable right to an education corresponding to his proper destiny and suited to his native talents, his cultural background, and his ancestral heritage. At the same time, this education should pave the way to brotherly association with other peoples, so that genuine unity and peace on earth may be promoted. For a true education aims at the formation of the human person with respect to the good of those societies of which, as a man, he is a member, and in whose responsibilities, as an adult, he will share.”
O Saint John Neumann, your ardent desire of bringing all souls to Christ impelled you to leave home and country; teach us to live worthily in the spirit of our Baptism which makes us all children of the one Heavenly Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, the first-born of the family of God. Obtain for us that complete dedication in the service of the needy, the weak, the afflicted and the abandoned which so characterized your life. Help us to walk perseveringly in the difficult and, at times, painful paths of duty strengthened by the Body and Blood of our Redeemer and under the watchful protection of Mary our Mother. May death still find us on the sure road to our Father’s House with the light of living Faith in our hearts. Amen.