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Saint John Neumann

AKA: Giovanni Nepomuceno Neumann
Jan Nepomucky Neumann

Born: March 28, 1811; in Prachatitz, Kingdom of Bohemia, Austrian Empire (Czech Republic)

Died: January 5, 1860 at 13th and Vine Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of a stroke

Venerated: Roman Catholic Church (United States and Czech Republic)

Beatified: October 13, 1963 by Pope Paul VI

Canonized: June 19, 1977 by Pope Paul VI

Feast Day: January 5 (March 5 celebrated by the Bohemians)

Patronage: Catholic Education

Son of Philip, who was German and owned a stocking factory, and Agnes Neumann who was Czech.  John was a small and quiet boy with four sisters and a brother, and was named after Saint John Nepomucene.  An excellent student, John early felt drawn to religious life.  Seminarian at Budweis, Bohemia in 1813, he studied astronomy and botany in addition to theological topics.  He studied theology at Charles Ferdinand University in Prague in 1833.

When time came for John’s ordination, his bishop was sick; the ordination was never re-scheduled as Bohemia had an over-abundance of priests. John decided to go to America to ask for ordination, and to work with emigrants.  He walked most of the way to France, then took ship for America.

John arrived unannounced in Manhattan in 1836.  Bishop John Dubois was happy to see him as there were 36 priests for the 200,000 Catholics in New York and New Jersey.  John was ordained on June, 28 1836, and sent to Buffalo.  There the parish priest, Father Pax, gave him the choice of the city of Buffalo or of the rural area.  John chose the more difficult country area.  He stayed in a small town with an unfinished church, and when it was completed, he moved to a town with a log church.  There he built himself a small log cabin, rarely lit a fire, slept little, often lived on bread and water, and walked miles to visit farm after remote farm.  John’s parishioners were from many lands and tongues, but John knew twelve languages, and worked with them all.

He joined the Redemptorists at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1840, taking his vows at Baltimore, Maryland in 1841; the first Redemptorist to do so in the United States.  He was the home missioner in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, rector of Saint Philomena church in Pittsburgh in 1844. Vice-regent and superior of the Redemptorists in America in 1847.  Bishop of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1852.

Bishop John built fifty churches and began building a cathedral.  He opened almost one hundred schools, and the number of parochial school students in his diocese grew from 500 to 9,000.  He wrote newspaper articles, two catechisms, and many works in German.  He was the first American man and first American bishop to be canonized.