St. John Neumann

Friends in Christ, today in these days of Epiphany, Mother Church gives us the feast day of a special, American saint, St. John Neumann.
St. John was born in present-day Czechoslovakia; he was a quiet, shy boy who was kind of a bookworm. His hobbies were botany and astronomy, and he hoped to become a scientist. At 20 years old, he was torn between the idea of becoming a doctor, and the thought that God was calling him to be a priest. His mother suggested he give the priesthood a try.
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In the seminary, John had a knack for learning languages, he learned six languages, including English. By the time of his ordination, the bishop became quite ill, and so his ordination was put off indefinitely. Now John knew of the great need of the immigrants in America for priests, and so he wrote letters to bishops offering his assistance; finally, the bishop in New York agreed to ordain him.
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He left his home forever and traveled across the ocean to a new land. He was sent to a parish of 900 square miles in western New York full of mosquito infested swamp land; he had to travel on foot 10 to 20 miles per day, carrying his Mass kit and offering Mass wherever he could.
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He had a special love for children, and kept his pockets full of candy which he used to induce children to learn their catechism. Once he was almost hanged by some bandits, he was shot at by a drunken mule skinner, and was once so exhausted that he passed out in the woods.
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At age 31, needing the friendship of other priests and community life, he joined the Redemptorists, and after 11 years, he was made Bishop of Philadelphia. By this time he knew 12 languages, which helped him to hear many confessions of people among the immigrant population. An old Irish lady went to confession to him and confessed in Gaelic. She left confession exclaiming, ‘We finally have an Irish bishop!’
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John’s passion however, was education, and it was St. John Neumann who mapped out a plan for Catholic education for the United States. When he was named bishop, there were only 2 Catholic schools in his diocese; 8 years later there were one hundred. Having done so much, John Neumann died at only the age of 48.
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We can learn from his example, a simple faith and trust in God, which can carry us along to do things we would never have dreamed of. St. John Neumann used to day: ‘Nothing is going to happen to me today Lord, that you and I together can’t handle.’

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