Collection: St. John Neumann

ARTIST: Br. Robert Lentz, OFM


Born in Bohemia, John Neumann landed in New Your City at the age of 25, with one dollar in his pocket. He was ordained a priest in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and then assigned to a 900 square-mile parish. Before he learned to ride a horse, he used to cross this extensive area on foot, braving all types of weather and difficult conditions. He shared the poverty of his immigrant flock. "You have to love poverty," he said, "if you want to be a missionary."

Neumann joined the congregation of the Redemptorists in 1840, and was appointed their American superior five years later. During this time he worked in various northeastern cities, especially Pittsburgh. In 1852, Rome made him bishop of Philadelphia.

Considered by many to be the father of the American parochial school system, Neumann was before all else a pastor. He learned as many languages as possible so that he could minister to immigrants from all over Europe. After he had heard her confession in Gaelic, one old Irish woman left the confessional and exclaimed, "Thank heaven we finally have an Irish priest!" Even as bishop, he kept a poor life style. His priests used to complain about his shabby clothes. He died on a city sidewalk, running an errand, and the poor have prayed at his tomb ever since.

His feast day is January 5.

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Perhaps because the United States got a later start in the history of the world, it has relatively few canonized saints, but their number is increasing.

John Neumann was born in what is now the Czech Republic. After studying in Prague, he came to New York at 25 and was ordained a priest. He did missionary work in New York until he was 29, when he joined the Redemptorists and became its first member to profess vows in the United States. He continued missionary work in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio, where he became popular with the Germans.

At 41, as bishop of Philadelphia, he organized the parochial school system into a diocesan one, increasing the number of pupils almost twentyfold within a short time.

Gifted with outstanding organizing ability, he drew into the city many teaching communities of sisters and the Christian Brothers. During his brief assignment as vice provincial for the Redemptorists, he placed them in the forefront of the parochial movement.

Well-known for his holiness and learning, spiritual writing and preaching, on October 13, 1963, John Neumann became the first American bishop to be beatified. Canonized in 1977, he is buried in St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia.

Born: March 28, 1811 at Prachititz, Bohemia (Czech Republic)

Died: January 5, 1860 of a stroke at 13th and Vine Streets, Philadephia, Pennsylvania, USA

Beatified: October 13, 1963 at Rome, Italy

Canonized: June 19, 1977 by Pope Paul VI