Saint of the Day ~ January 5

SAINT JOHN NEUMANN (1811-1860), bishop

Today, the Church honors Saint John Neumann, a man who had a deep desire to serve the needs of God’s children, and who made his way to America to fulfill his calling to accomplish God’s will in his life.

John Neumann was born on March 28, 1811, in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. His parents were Philip and Agnes Neumann, and he was the third of six children.

From his mother, he acquired the spirit of piety and, through her encouragement, entered the seminary at Budweis, a city in the south of Bohemia. When the time came for his ordination, he was sick and the date was never rescheduled, as the country had enough priests at the time. Since he had been reading about missionary activities in the United States, John decided to go to America and request to be ordained there. He walked most of the way to France and then boarded a ship to New York.

John arrived in Manhattan on June 9, 1836, where he was gladly welcomed by Bishop John Dubois, who at that time had only thirty-six priests for the two hundred thousand Catholics living in the State of New York and part of New Jersey. Just sixteen days after his arrival, John was ordained a priest and sent to a rural area outside of the city of Buffalo, New York. There, Father Neumann established himself in a small log parish house. He hardly ever lit a fire and often lived on only bread and water.

He was the first person to make his religious profession as a Redemptorist priest in America in 1842, and also became an American citizen eight years later. He continued his missionary work in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, until he was elected the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1852, which, at the time, was the largest diocese in America, comprising eastern Pennsylvania, western New Jersey, and all of Delaware.

Bishop Neumann built fifty churches and also began the construction of a cathedral. He opened almost one hundred schools, and the number of parochial school students grew from five hundred to nine thousand. He wrote newspaper articles, two catechisms, and many works in German. He was also the first bishop in the United States to introduce the Forty Hours Devotion to the Blessed Eucharist in his diocese.

At forty-eight years of age, completely exhausted from all his apostolic endeavors, Bishop Neumann died suddenly of a stroke in Philadelphia on January 5, 1860.

He became the first American bishop to be beatified, and was canonized a saint by Pope St. Paul VI on June 19, 1977. The displayed remains of Saint John Neumann lie in a glass encasement beneath the altar of the lower church (the National Shrine of Saint John Neumann) where Mass is offered daily, located in the Parish of St. Peter the Apostle in Philadelphia.

We commemorate his feastday on January 5.

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(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint John Neumann)

“Father, You called Saint John Neumann to labor for the Gospel among the people of the new world. His ministry strengthened many others in the Christian faith; through his prayers, may faith grow strong in this land.

“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

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