St John Neumann, Bishop – 05 Jan
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. Studied theology at Charles Ferdinand University at 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 emigres. 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 28 June 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. 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. First American man and first American bishop to be canonized.
He was born on 28 March 1811 at Prachititz, Bohemia (Czech Republic) and died on 5 January 1860 of a stroke in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His body is interred in a glass tomb under the altar at the National Shrine of Saint John Neumann in Philadelphia.
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. – Saint John Neumann
A man must always be ready, for death comes when and where God wills it. – Saint John Neumann
Merciful Father, You have given me all that I have in this world, even life itself. In all my daily needs, help me to remember the needs of others too. Make me aware of the need to pray to You not just for myself but for the Church, the Pope, for the clergy and for people who suffer any need. Make me as selfless as Saint John Neumann. Throughout my life, give me the grace to direct my first thoughts to the service of You and of others. Make my prayer – “Your will be done” knowing that in Your mercy and love, Your will for me is my sanctification. I ask this through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.