Saint John Neumann was born March 28, 1811 in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic). He emigrated to the United States and was ordained a priest at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City on 25 June 1836. He was then 25 years of age.
His first priestly assignment was to serve Catholic immigrant families in upstate New York. As a missionary priest, he traveled vast distances and endured great hardship in the execution of his vocation. In addition to saying the Mass and administering the sacraments, he also spent much time educating young Catholics.
Saint John Neumann entered the Redemptorist order in 1840 and left New York state for Pittsburgh. As a Redemptorist, he continued to priotize the instruction of Catholic children and published three texts used for catechesis: Smaller Catechism, Larger Catechism and Bible History. The Smaller Catechism (for preparing children for their first Holy Communion) is still available.
On 5 February 1852, Saint John Neumann was appointed Bishop of Philadelphia. As Bishop he founded the first Catholic diocesan school system in the United States as well as the first diocesan schedule of the Forty Hours’ Devotion. He was tireless in his devotion to God and in the performance of his duties. He died of a stroke on 5 January 1860 at 48 years of age.