Today is the feast day of Philadelphia’s own St. John Neumann.
Born in Prachatitz, Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) on March 28, 1811, Father Neumann was ordained a priest on June 25, 1836, for the Diocese of New York. He was assigned to the “Niagara Area” of upstate New York. On January 16, 1842, Father Neumann became the first Redemptorist to profess vows in the United States. His first assignment was in Baltimore, Maryland; then on to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Father Neumann became an American citizen on February 10, 1848.
On his 41st birthday on March 28, 1852, Father Neumann was consecrated the 4th Bishop of Philadelphia. He established the first diocesan school system and a diocesan schedule for the 40 Hours Devotion. Under his leadership, many schools and churches were built.
On January 5, 1860, Bishop Neumann collapsed and died on a Philadelphia street while running errands. At his own request, Bishop Neumann was buried in a basement crypt in St. Peter the Apostle Church, Philadelphia, where he would be with his Redemptorist confreres. He was declared “Blessed” on October 13, 1963 by Pope Paul VI and was canonized a saint by the same pope on June 19, 1977.
The National Shrine of St. John Neumann is located in the lower church of St. Peter the Apostle Church at 1019 North 5th Street in Philadelphia. The body of the saint lies in a glass-enclosed reliquary under the main altar. It is dressed in episcopal vestments with a mask covering his face. Adjoining the lower church is a small museum, which displays exhibits related to the life of the saint. The National Shrine of St. John Neumann and St. Peter’s Church remain under the care of the Redemptorists.
For further information concerning this great saint and the beautiful shrine (including hours of the shrine, museum and gift shop), visit the shrine’s website: www.stjohnneumann.org.