The Redemptorists celebrate the 160th Death Anniversary of St. John Neumann on 5th of January worldwide. John was born at Prachatitz in Bohemia on March 28, 1811. He entered the seminary in 1831. Two years later, he entered the university in Prague, where he studied his theology.
His preparations for the priesthood were completed in 1835, but he could not be ordained in his own diocese due to the increasing number of priests. Therefore, he was offered to do missionary work in the United States. Later he was ordained a priest in June of 1836. He was assigned to mission churches near Buffalo, where he worked zealously for four years.
Feeling the need for spiritual support, he applied to the Redemptorists. He became the first priest to enter the Congregation in America when he took his vows in Baltimore in January of 1842.
In 1847, he was appointed superior of the Redemptorists in the United States. During his term as superior, the Congregation was passing through a trying period of adjustment from its European background. In 1850, the Redemptorists of the United States became an autonomous province.
Father Neumann was named Bishop of Philadelphia and consecrated in Baltimore at St. Alphonsus Church in March of 1852. He organized a diocesan education system of parish schools, appointing religious sisters and brothers to teach in them. He founded the Third Order of St. Francis for the sisters, who were appointed to teach in the schools. The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul was one of 80 churches built during his episcopate.
Nicknamed the “Little Bishop” because of his height (he stood roughly five feet four inches), St. John Neumann was not very strong and healthy, but in his short lifetime he kept up with his pastoral duties while publishing numerous articles and authoring two catechisms.
On January 5, 1860, he collapsed and died on a Philadelphia street. He is buried in St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia. He was beatified by Pope Paul VI on October 13, 1963, and canonized on June 19, 1977.
May St. John Neumann inspire us to be a missionary to proclaim the Word of God amidst the poor and the abandoned.