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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Birthday of St. John Neumann

St. John Neumann was born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1811. While in the seminary, he decided he wanted to be a missionary in the United States. The Little Black Book tells us that he arrived in New York with one suit of clothes and a dollar in his pocket. Because of the shortage of priests, John was ordained almost immediately and assigned to western New York. He was impressed with the work of the Redemptorist priests in the area and joined them as he wanted to live in a religious community.
In 1852, on his 41st birthday, John Neumann became the fourth bishop of Philadelphia. He was a humble man, small of stature, but very active. He established over 80 parishes and promoted Catholic schools. He also wrote two catechisms in German (he spoke six languages). He died at the age of 48 in 1860. He was the first American bishop to be beatified in 1963; he was canonized in 1977.

St. Thomas University in Miami has a great collection of John Neumann's writings. There was a room that I used for giving the 19th annotation retreat and also for spiritual direction and interviewing people that was dedicated to him in the library. I think telling people so often that I would meet them in the Neumann room was the beginning of my devotion to this saint.

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