Feast Day : January 5 (United States); May 16 (elsewhere)
Also known as: John Henry Cardinal Neumann
John Nepomucene Neumann was born in Prachititz, Bohemia (in what is now the Czech Republic), on March 28, 1811, the third of six children of a German father and Czech mother. He was named after the 14th-century Bohemian martyr St. John Nepomucene. John began his studies at the diocesan seminary in Budweis in 1831, but two years latter transferred to the Charles Ferdinand University in Prague. When he had completed his studies but found his ordination postponed due to an overabundance of clergy in his diocese, he decided to go to America as a missionary. He arrived in New York City in June 1836, was ordained by Bishop James Dubois on June 28, then sent to work among German-speaking Catholics clearing forests in upstate New York. After four years of this work, he entered the novitiate of the newly established branch of the Redemptorists at Saint Philomena’s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He made his vows in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1841, becoming the first Redemptorist to do so in the United States. John continued his missionary activities as a preacher in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, but he was destined for greater things. In 1844, he became rector of Saint Philomena’s; in 1847, he was named vice regent and superior of the American Redemptorists; and then in 1852, Pope Pius IX (r. 1846–78) appointed him the fourth bishop of Philadelphia. As bishop, John reorganized his diocese, establishing new parishes and inaugurating a widespread program of new construction, including 100 new churches and 80 new parochial schools. He also began work on a cathedral. To staff the schools and an orphanage, he founded the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who observe the rule of the “active” Franciscan Third Order, and attracted a number of other teaching orders. John also introduced the devotion of 40 hours, wrote extensively and produced two catechisms that were endorsed by American bishops at their first plenary council in 1852 and were very popular in their day. John died of a stroke while walking on Vine Street in Philadelphia on January 5, 1860. A little more than a century later, he became America’s first male saint.