January 4, 2017

Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop

St. John Neumann
On January 5th, the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint John Neumann (1811-1860), the 19th century bishop, missionary and founder, who as the first Redemptorist missionary to profess vows in the United States. He established the Diocesan School System, a Diocesan Schedule for 40 Hours Devotion, the Third Order of St. Francis of Glen Riddle, whose Rule he drafted in 1855 [after returning from Rome for the solemn promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception] as well as built many schools and churches. He was appointed the General Superior of American Redemptorists and was consecrated the 4th Bishop of Philadelphia.

John Nepomucene Neumann was born in Prachatitz, Bohemia (present day Czech Republic) into a devout family, and baptized the same day. While in the seminary, he felt called to serve as a missionary to the United States. In 1836, upon completing of his theological studies, he sailed for America where he was ordained a priest on June 25, 1836, for the Diocese of New York. Neumann was assigned to the "Niagara Area" of upstate New York, and ministered in a small parish in Buffalo.

At some point, he transferred to the Diocese of Baltimore. As a young priest, he was the first to make his religious profession as a Redemptorist in the New World. This he did on January 16, 1842, in the Church of Saint James in Baltimore. Before his elevation to the See of Philadelphia at age 41, he had served as rector of Saint Philomena's in Pittsburgh, and Saint Alphonsus in Baltimore, as well as vice-provincial of this missionary order in America. Fr. Neumann was appointed General Superior of the American Redemptorists Order in March of the year 1847.

By order of Pope Pius IX, he he was consecrated Bishop of Philadelphia by Archbishop Francis Kenrick at St. Alphonsus Church in Baltimore, in 1852.. His fluency in eight languages proved indispensable in his quest to win souls for Christ. He was a tireless promoter of the Parochial School System in America at a time when Catholics were denied entry into the various public schools of the day.

So prodigious were Neumann's efforts on behalf of the Church in Philadelphia that the late Pope Pius XII, on the 150th anniversary of the founding of the diocese would write: "Among the shepherds of the flock in Philadelphia, the figure of Venerable John Neumann is pre-eminent. It was mainly through his prodigious efforts that a Catholic school system came into being and that parochial schools began to rise across the land. His holy life, his childlike gentleness, his hard labor and his tremendous foresight is still fresh and green among you. The tree planted and watered by Bishop Neumann now gives you its fruit."

St. John Neumann collapsed and died on January 5, 1860, at age 48. He was declared venerable by Pope Benedict XV in 1921. He was beatified by Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council on October 13, 1963, and was canonized by the same on June 19, 1977. Neumann's incorrupt remains rest under the altar of the National Shrine of Saint John Neumann in Philadelphia. O God, who called the Bishop Saint John Neumann, renowned for his charity and pastoral service, to shepherd your people in America, grant by his intercession that, as we foster the Christian education of youth and are strengthened by the witness of our brotherly love, we may constantly increase your Church through our unending selflessness.

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