Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Saint John Nepomucene Neumann

Saint John Nepomucene Neumann ( also known as Jan Nepomucký Neumann) was born on March 25, 1811 at Prachititz, Bohemia (Czech Republic). His father Philip, was German and owned a stocking factory, and his mother Agnes Neumann was Czech.

John was a small, quiet boy with four sisters and a brother, and he was named after Saint John Nepomucene. Being an excellent student, John at an early age felt drawn to religious life. He became a seminarian at Budweis, Bohemia in 1813, where he studied astronomy and botany in addition to theological topics. In 1833 John studied theology at Charles Ferdinand University at Prague.

The time came for John's ordination but the bishop was ill, and with there being such an over- abundance of priests in Bohemia, the date for the ordination was never reset. John then decided to go to America to ask for ordination and to work with emigrants. So John walked most of the way to France, then took a ship for America.

John arrived in Manhattan in 1836, where Bishop John Dubois was happy to see him as there were just 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, and John chose the more difficult rural 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 log cabin, rarely lit a fire, slept little, often living on bread and water, and walked many long miles to visit farm after remote farm. John's parishioners were from many countries and spoke a variety of languages, but John knew twelve languages, and worked with them all.

In 1840 John joined the Redemptorists at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and later he took his vows at Baltimore, Maryland in 1841. John was the first Redemptorist to do so in the United States. John was a home missionary in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and became Rector of Saint Philomena church in Pittsburgh in 1844. Then in in 1847 he became the vice-regent and superior of the Redemptorists in America. He became an American citizen in 1848. Then John was appointed as the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia in 1852.

As bishop, John built 50 churches and began building a cathedral. He also opened almost one hundred schools, and the number of parochial school students in his diocese grew from 500 to 9,000. John wrote newspaper articles, two catechisms, and many other works in German.

Saint John Nepomucene Neumann died of a stroke at 13th and Vine Streets, in Philadephia, Pennsylvania on January 5, 1860. At his own request, Saint John would be buried in a basement crypt in Saint Peter's Church where he would be near his Redemptorist brothers.

Saint John has the distinction of being the first American man and the first American bishop to be canonized. He was canonized on June 19, 1977 by Pope Paul VI.

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