John Neumann
January 5, Bishop and saint.

Author: Andie Rocha | Source:

Redemptorist priest, bishop and founder of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis

Roman martyrology: In the city of Philadelphia in the United States, John Neumann, was bishop of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, who distinguished himself by his quest on poor immigrants, helping them with advice and charity, as well as christian education of children.

Canonization date: June 19, 1977 by Pope Paul VI.


This American saint was born in Bohemia in 1811. He was son of Philip, a German man who owned a stocking factory and Agnes Neumann who was Czech. John, named after Saint John Nepomucene, was a small and quiet boy with four sisters and a brother. He was an excellent student and 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.

He was looking forward to being ordained in 1835 when the bishop decided there would be no more ordinations. It is difficult for us to imagine now, but Bohemia was overstocked with priests. John wrote to bishops all over Europe but the story was the same everywhere: No one wanted any more priests. John was sure he was called to be a priest but all the doors to follow that vocation seemed to close in his face.
But John didn't give up. He had learned English by working in a factory with English-speaking workers, so he wrote to some bishops in America. Finally, the bishop in New York agreed to ordain him. In order to follow God's call to the priesthood John would have to leave his home forever and travel across the ocean to a new and rugged land.

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 was fluent in six of them, so he was able to work with them all.

He joined the Redemptorists at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1840, taking his vows at Baltimore, Maryland in 1841, being the first Redemptorist to do so in the United States. He became a home missionary in towns such as Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Later on the title of Rector of Saint Philomena church in Pittsburgh, was given to him in 1844. In 1847, he was named vice-regent and superior of the Redemptorists in America and by 1852 we had become the Bishop of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Returning to his diocese, held a permit he received from Pope Pius IX: The vows of three women who belonged to the Third Order of St. Francis and turned their partnership into a religious congregation: Order of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis,

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.
John died on January 5, 1860 at the age of 48.


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