Today’s the feast of St. John Neumann,. “The sacrament of Holy Orders is at the service of the communion of the church.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). In his life as a priest and bishop John Neumann served the church in an heroic way.
Born in Bohemia in 1811, John Neumann studied in the seminary there and was drawn to serve the church in the new lands of the United States of America. Arriving in New York City in 1835, he was accepted for ordination by Bishop Dubois and almost immediately ordained at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Bishop Dubois sent. him to the northern parts of New York State then experiencing explosive growth because of the newly built Eire Canal. Many of its builders were Catholic immigrants who settled in the cities and towns along the canal, but were without priests. Immigrant Catholics also followed the railroads that were transforming. the new nation.
First as a diocesan priest and then as a Redemptorist, Neumann founded parishes and missions in the cities and towns along the canal and the railroad lines.
Neumann spoke a number of languages and learned to speak others, even Gaelic, as he reached out to the new immigrants from different nations. He wore himself out in his tireless effort and joined the Redemptorist Order looking for the support and stability that a religious order provided. As a Redemporist he continued building the church through the northeastern United States, establishing parishes, preaching and catechizing an immigrant people.
In 1852 he was appointed bishop of Philadelphia, then experiencing a growing Catholic population. He worked vigorously in that diocese as its shepherd, building over 100 new schools and 50 churches there, until his death in 1860. Convinced of the need for good instruction in the faith, he wrote two catechisms, preached continuously, administered the sacraments and established the Forty Hours Devotion in his diocese.
John Neumann was a priest at the service of the communion of the Church. Leaving his home and the well established church in Europe, he built a new church in the United States. He was a true missionary of Christ.
We need priests like him today.
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 his brotherly love, we may constantly increase the family of your Church. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.