Saint John Nepomucene Neumann

Birth: March 28, 1811 (Prachatitz in Bohemia, present day Czech Republic
Death: January 5, 1860 (USA)
Canonisation: June 19, 1977, Pope Paul VI
Feast: 5 January
Patron of: Catholic Education


John Neumann was born in Prachatitiz in Bohemia (Czech Republic) on March 28, 1811.
He studied theology at the seminary of Budweis. Zealous for the missionary life and wanting to lead souls to Christ, he decided to leave his homeland to dedicate himself to the European immigrants in America, who were deprived of spiritual support.

He was ordained a priest by the bishop of New York and gave himself to the pastoral care of people in the vast area around Niagara Falls. Since he wanted to live in a religious community that corresponded more closely to his missionary vocation, he entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, being professed on January 16, 1842. He was a tireless missionary, busying himself in particular with the German immigrants, first in Baltimore, then in Pittsburgh. He filled the role of vice-provincial of the Redemptorists from 1846 to 1849, after which he became the parish priest of St. Alphonsus Church in Baltimore. In 1852, at the age of forty-two, he was named bishop of Philadelphia. He had a strong effect on the religious life of the United States by founding Catholic schools and promoting devotion to the Eucharist. In two years the number of students in the parochial schools went from 500 to 9000. He founded a new religious institute: the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. In the brief space of seven years, he built eighty-nine churches, as well as several hospitals and orphanages.

A worthy son of St. Alphonsus, like him, he made a vow never to lose a minute of time. As a bishop, he was holy and tireless. Uninterruptedly he visited his vast diocese, on one occasion travelling more than twenty-five miles of mountain roads by mule in order to confirm a young boy who was sick.

On January 5, 1860, he died suddenly of a heart attack on a street in Philadelphia. He was beatified during the Second Vatican Council on October 13, 1963, and was canonized on June 19, 1977. In the homily on the occasion of his canonization, Paul VI summarized the activity of the new saint in these words: "He was close to the sick, he loved to be with the poor, he was a friend of sinners, and now he is the glory of all emigrants.

Source: Redemptorist Sacramentary and Lectionary Supplement