Feast Day 5th January

A most interesting saint for this month and one of just a few that have lived in nineteenth century America. But John Neumann was far from being a typical American, he was born in 1811 to a German father and a Czech mother who owned a stocking factory in Prachatitz, Bohemia. He studied at a seminary at Budweis and later at Prague University, a very learned young man, he spoke eight languages and showed great interest in botany and astronomy as well as the usual ecclesiastical subjects. For some unknown reason the Austrian government delayed his ordination for so long that John decided to go to America, where he spent the rest of his life.

He arrived in Manhattan in June 1836 and although nobody expected him he was warmly welcomed by John Dubois, bishop of New York , who promptly ordained him and sent him to minister to the German speaking immigrants who were clearing the forests around Niagara Falls. After four years of missionary work John joined the Redemptorist Congregation, founded by Alphonsus Liguori, where again he was sent as a missionary to Americas east coast, he eventually becoming parish priest in Baltimore. Here John did outstanding work and in 1852 he was consecrated bishop of Philadelphia, his capacity for work now reached new high levels, having 100 churches and 80 schools built all within a very short time. He also spent much time visiting remote and hitherto neglected areas of his diocese

Never a robust man, by 1860 John had exhausted himself with all his good works and he dropped dead on Vine Street, Philadelphia Popular devotion preceded official approval of his cult and it took over a hundred years and it is said a great deal of money to get him canonised, in 1977, recognising the achievements of this saintly priest On top of all his other works, in 1852, John published catechisms which were widely used in the U. S. A. up until the turn of the century.

John Hayward


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