John Neumann

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John Nepomucene Neumann CSsR (Czech: Jan Nepomucký Neumann, German: Johann Nepomuk Neumann; March 28, 1811 – January 5, 1860) was a Catholic priest from Bohemia. He immigrated to the United States in 1836, where he was ordained and later joined the Redemptorist order and became the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia (1852–1860). He is the first United States bishop (and to date the only male U.S. citizen) to be canonized. While Bishop of Philadelphia, Neumann founded the first Catholic diocesan school system in the United States. He is a Roman Catholic saint, canonized in 1977.[citation needed]


John Nepomucene Neumann

Bishop of Philadelphia
Johannes Nepomuk Neumann.jpg
Native name
Johann Nepomuk Neumann
ChurchLatin Church
AppointedFebruary 5, 1852
InstalledMarch 28, 1852
Term endedJanuary 5, 1860
PredecessorFrancis Kenrick
SuccessorJames Frederick Wood
OrdinationJune 25, 1836
by John Dubois
ConsecrationMarch 28, 1852
by Francis Kenrick
Personal details
Born(1811-03-28)March 28, 1811
Prachatitz, Kingdom of Bohemia, Austrian Empire
DiedJanuary 5, 1860(1860-01-05) (aged 48)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
BuriedNational Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia
DenominationRoman Catholic
Alma materCharles University in Prague
Coat of armsJohn Nepomucene Neumann's coat of arms
Feast day
  • January 5
  • March 5 (celebrated by the Bohemians)
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
(United States and
the Czech Republic)
Title as SaintMissionary, religious and Bishop
BeatifiedOctober 13, 1963
Vatican City,
by Pope Paul VI
CanonizedJune 19, 1977
Vatican City,
by Pope Paul VI
AttributesRedemptorist habit with a pectoral cross
PatronageCatholic education
ShrinesNational Shrine of Saint John Neumann, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Ordination history of
John Neumann
Priestly ordination
Ordained byJohn Dubois
DateJune 25, 1836
PlaceOld St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, New York, United States
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorFrancis Kenrick
Co-consecratorsBernard O’Reilly (Hartford)
DateMarch 28, 1852

Early lifeEdit

Neuman was born on March 28, 1811, in Prachatice, in the Kingdom of Bohemia[1] (then part of the Austrian Empire, now in the Czech Republic) to Johann Philipp Neumann, a stocking knitter from Obernburg am Main, and Agnes Lebisch from Prachatice.[2]

Neumann attended a school in České Budějovice which was operated by the Piarist Fathers before entering the seminary there in 1831. Two years later he transferred to the Charles University in Prague, where he studied theology, though he was also interested in astronomy and botany. By the time he was twenty-four, he had learned six languages.[3]

His goal was to be ordained to the priesthood, and he applied for this after completing his studies in 1835. His bishop, however, had decided that there would be no more ordinations at that time, as Bohemia had numerous priests and difficulty finding positions for them all. In 1836 Neumann traveled to the United States in the hope of being ordained.[citation needed]


Neumann arrived in New York with one suit of clothes and one dollar in his pocket.[3] Three weeks later, Bishop John Dubois, Society of Saint-Sulpice, ordained him in June 1836 at what is now the Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

The Diocese of New York at that time encompassed all of the State of New York and half of New Jersey.[1] After his ordination, Dubois assigned Neumann to work with recent German immigrants in the Niagara Falls area, where there were no established parish churches. His first assignment was the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Williamsville, New York. His parish in western New York stretched from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania.[citation needed]

People laughed at the clumsy way Neumann rode a horse; because he was short, his feet did not reach the stirrups.[3] He traveled the countryside—visited the sick, taught catechism, and trained teachers to take over when he left. Neumann took up full-time residence in North Bush (now part of Tonawanda) as the first pastor of St. John the Baptist Church (1836–1840). He made this the base for his missionary work.[1]

Because of the work and the isolation of his parish, Neumann longed for community. In 1840, with Dubois' permission, Neumann applied to join the Redemptorist Fathers, was accepted, and entered their novitiate at St. Philomena's Church in Pittsburgh. He was their first candidate in the New World and took his religious vows as a member of the congregation in Baltimore, in January 1842. While a novice for the Redemptorists, he served at St. Alphonsus Church in Peru Township, Huron County, Ohio for five months before returning to New York.[4] He was naturalized as a United States citizen in Baltimore on February 10, 1848. He served as the pastor of St. Augustine Church in Elkridge, Maryland, from 1849 to 1851.[5]

After six years of difficult but fruitful work in Maryland, Neumann became the Provincial Superior for the United States. He also served as parish priest at St. Alphonsus Church in Baltimore.[6]

Bishop of PhiladelphiaEdit

On February 5, 1852, the Holy See appointed Neumann Bishop of Philadelphia.[7] His predecessor in that office, Francis Kenrick (who had become Archbishop of Baltimore), presided over the consecration on March 28, and Bishop Bernard O'Reilly assisted. The consecration was held in St. Alphonsus Church, Baltimore.[8]

Philadelphia had a large and expanding Catholic immigrant population; Germans who fled the Napoleonic and other Continental wars had been followed by Irish fleeing the Great Famine caused by the potato blight and wars. Soon Italians and other southern and eastern European Catholics would arrive.[citation needed]

Some settled in the rural parts of the diocese, similar to the rural areas of New York state where Neumann had begun his ministry, but many stayed in the city. At the time Philadelphia was one of the largest cities in the country.[citation needed]

It was an industrializing mercantile hub with many jobs for people with little command of the English language. The waves of immigration resulted in tensions in the city with native-born residents, who had to compete for work in difficult economic times. Anti-Catholic riots took place in the 1830s and 1844, in the Philadelphia Nativist Riots, occurring as Irish Catholics began to arrive in great number in the city. Soon more riots occurred, particularly since the city was a stronghold of the Know-Nothing political party, known for its anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic prejudices.[citation needed]

During Neumann's administration, new parish churches were completed at the rate of nearly one per month. To encourage savings and to support the financial needs of the Catholic community in Philadelphia he directed the creation of a mutual savings bank, Beneficial Bank, in 1853. As many immigrants settled in close communities from their hometowns and with speakers of the same language, churches became associated with immigrants from particular regions, and were known as national parishes. Their parishioners often did not speak English or know how to obtain needed social services.[7]

Neumann became the first bishop in the country to organize a diocesan school system, as the Catholic parents wanted their children taught in the Catholic tradition. They feared Protestant influence and discrimination in the public schools.[9]

Under his administration, the number of parochial schools in his diocese increased from one to 200. Neumann's fluency in several languages endeared him to the many new immigrant communities in Philadelphia. As well as ministering to newcomers in his native German, Neumann also spoke Italian fluently. A growing congregation of Italian-speakers received pastoral care in his private chapel, and Neumann eventually established in Philadelphia the first Italian national parishes in the country.[citation needed]

Neumann actively invited religious institutes to establish new houses within the diocese to provide necessary social services.[9] In 1855, Neumann supported the foundation of a congregation of religious sisters in the city, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.[7] He brought the School Sisters of Notre Dame from Germany to assist in religious instruction and staff an orphanage. He also intervened to save the Oblate Sisters of Providence from dissolution; this congregation of African-American women was founded by Haitian refugees in Baltimore.[citation needed]

The large diocese was not wealthy, and Neumann became known for his personal frugality. He kept and wore only one pair of boots throughout his residence in the United States. When given a new set of vestments as a gift, he would often use them to outfit the newest ordained priest in the diocese. Discouraged by conflict as well as anti-Catholic riots and arson of religious buildings, Neumann wrote to Rome asking to be replaced as bishop, but Pope Pius IX insisted that he continue.[citation needed]

In 1854, Neumann traveled to Rome and was present at St. Peter's Basilica on December 8, along with 53 cardinals, 139 other bishops, and thousands of priests and laity, when Pius solemnly defined, ex cathedra, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.[citation needed]

While doing errands on Thursday, January 5, 1860, Neumann collapsed and died on a Philadelphia street. He was 48 years old. Bishop James Frederick Wood, a Philadelphia native who converted to Catholicism in Cincinnati in 1836 and who had been appointed Neumann's coadjutor with right of succession in 1857, succeeded Neumann as Bishop of Philadelphia.[citation needed]


Neumann 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,[9] and was canonized by that same pope on June 19, 1977.[10] His feast days are January 5, the date of his death, on the Roman calendar for the Church in the United States of America, and March 5 in the Czech Republic.

After his canonization, the National Shrine of Saint John Neumann was constructed at the Parish of St. Peter the Apostle, at 5th Street and Girard Avenue in Philadelphia. The remains of St. John Neumann rest under the altar of the shrine within a glass-walled reliquary.

In 1980, Our Lady of the Angels College, founded by the congregation of Franciscan Sisters he had founded and located within the archdiocese, was renamed Neumann College. It was granted university status by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2009.[11]

Jubilee yearEdit

In 2011, the Redemptorist Fathers celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Neumann. The Closing Mass for the Neumann Year was held on June 23, 2012, in Philadelphia.[12]

Schools named for NeumannEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "About St. John Neumann". The National Shrine of St. John Neumann. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  2. ^ "Die Böhmerwälder Wurzeln des Heiligen Johann Nepomuk Neumann" (PDF). Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Saint John Neumann". Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  4. ^ "History". Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  5. ^ "History". Archived from the original on September 19, 2015. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  6. ^ "St. John Neumann", The Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province Archived April 19, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b c "Saint John Neumann". Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  8. ^ According to a plaque located in the Baltimore Basilica
  9. ^ a b c Foley, O.F.M., Leonard. "St. John Neumann", Saint of the Day, Lives, Lessons, and Feast, (revised by Pat McCloskey), Franciscan Media
  10. ^ Canonization of John Nepomucene Neumann, Homily of Paul VI, Sunday, 19 June 1977
  11. ^ "Neumann University". Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  12. ^ The Neumann Year celebration, Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province Archived January 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "St. John Neumann Academy - Where Faith & Knowledge Meet". St. John Neumann Academy. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  14. ^ "Neumann Classical School – Educating children in the liberal arts and natural sciences". Neumann Classical School. Retrieved September 19, 2015.

External linksEdit

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Francis Kenrick
Bishop of Philadelphia
Succeeded by
James Frederick Wood