St. John Neumann: Promoter of Devotion to the Eucharist

Today is the memorial of St. John Neumann, Bishop (USA). St. John Neumann was born in 1811 in Bohemia to Philip Neumann, who was German and owned a stocking factory, and Agnes Neumann who was Czech.

John was a small and quiet boy with four sisters and a brother, and was named after Saint John Nepomucene. An excellent student, John early felt drawn to religious life. As a seminarian at Budweis, Bohemia, he studied astronomy and botany in addition to theology. He futhered his studies in theology at Charles Ferdinand University at Prague in 1833.

John Neumann's ordination was delayed by the Austrian government so he began work with the North American mission in New York in 1836. He was ordained as a diocesan priest in June of 1836 by Bishop John Dubois at old St. Patrick's Cathedral on Mott Street, New York City. The following week, he was pastor of the whole Niagara Frontier, some hundred square miles of swampy primeval forest. Many German immigrants had settled this sector of the diocese and were in danger of losing the Faith. It was for this reason that Father Neumann was sent there. He built churches, raised log schools where possible and even taught the three R's himself to the German and Irish children.

Father Neumann was the first to make his religious profession as a Redemptorist in the New World. This he did in 1842 in the Church of St. James in Baltimore. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States at Baltimore on February 10, 1848, renouncing allegiance to the Emperor of Austria.  In 1852, at the age of 41, he was consecrated Bishop of Philadelphia. He was responsible for the building of 100 churches and 80 schools. He also wrote two catechisms and many newspaper articles.

One of the highlights of St. John Neumann's life was his participation, in Rome, in the Proclamation of the Dogma of our Blessed Mother's Immaculate Conception.  He avidly promoted devotion to the Eucharist. Through his efforts, the Forty Hours Devotion was introduced in the Philadelphia Diocese. He founded the first church in America for Italian-speaking people. He also founded the Glen Riddle group of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis.

On January 5, 1860, at the age of 49, he died suddenly of a heart attack on a Philadelphia street. Neumann was beatified during the Second Vatican Council on October 13, 1963, and was canonized on June 19, 1977. In the homily on the occasion of Neumann's canonization, Pope Paul VI summarized the activity of the new saint: "He was close to the sick, he loved to be with the poor, he was a friend of sinners, and now he is the glory of all emigrants."

Prayer for the Intercession of St. John Neumann
O Saint John Neumann, your ardent desire of bringing all souls to Christ impelled you to leave home and country; teach us to live worthily in the spirit of our Baptism which makes us all children of the one Heavenly Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, the first-born of the family of God. Obtain for us that complete dedication in the service of the needy, the weak, the afflicted and the abandoned which so characterized your life. Help us to walk perseveringly in the difficult and, at times, painful paths of duty, strengthened by the Body and Blood of our Redeemer and under the watchful protection of Mary our Mother.May death still find us on the sure road to our Father's House with the light of living Faith in our hearts. Amen.

Since every man of whatever race is endowed with the dignity of a person, he has an inalienable right to an education corresponding to his proper destiny and suited to his native talents, his cultural background, and his ancestral heritage. At the same time, this education should pave the way to brotherly association with other peoples, so that genuine unity and peace on earth may be promoted. For a true education aims at the formation of the human person with respect to the good of those societies of which, as a man, he is a member, and in whose responsibilities, as an adult, he will share.

~ St. John Neumann


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