First Redemptorist Priest Consecrated in America – Bishop of Philadelphia
Motto: “Passion of Christ Strengthen Me.”
John Nepomucene Neumann, the third of six children to Philip and Agnes Neumann, was born on March 28, 1811 in Prachatitz, a village in Bohemia. He was named for one of the patron saints of his homeland, St. John Nepomucene.
Neumann began his schooling in Prachatitz, then at the age of twelve continued his studies in the nearby town of Budwies. While in Budweis he attended the Budweis Gymnasium (high school) and a philsophical instutution.
His mother was a devout Czech woman who attended daily Mass. This helped Neumann with his own spirituality. He received the sacrament of penance at age seven, then confirmation the following year. Given his pious background, Neumann had no early inclination for the priesthood. However, at his mother’s insistence, Neumann decided to study theology at the Budweis Theological Seminary. He spent two years there before transferring to the University of Prague. It was while in Prague that he decided he wanted to become a missionary in the United States, ministering primarily to the German Catholics who had emigrated to the country. Unfortunately, after completing his studies at the University of Prague, he learned that no new priests were being ordained in his diocese. He then attempted to obtain a formal request from one of the American bishops, inviting him to become a missionary in America.
Neumann waited in Prachatitz for a formal invitation. When none came, he decided to make the trip across the Atlantic anyway. After many hardships, he finally arrived in New York on June 2, 1836. Soon after his arrival, Neumann was welcomed into the Diocese of New York by Bishop John DuBois who had sent a request to young John shortly before.
At the time of Neumann’s arrival in New York, only three priests spoke German. With a large number of immigrants in the diocese, Neumann began to prepare for his ordination immediately. On June 25, 1836, John Neumann was ordained at St. Patrick’s Cathedral by Bishop DuBois.
A few days