St. John Neumann is one of the first great American saints, the first American archbishop to be beatified. He is not to be confused with John Henry Cardinal Newman, of state university “Newman Center” fame.
John Neumann was born in what is now the Czech Republic. After studying in Prague, he came to New York at 25 and was ordained a priest. He did missionary work in New York until he was 29, when he joined the Redemptorists and became its first member to profess vows in the United States. He continued missionary work in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio. St. John was well-known for his holiness and learning, spiritual writing and preaching.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gets on with the work of redemption. He beings calling people to repentance and to believe in the Gospel. We are told, “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.” St. John Neumann took that seriously, being a kind of apostle for Catholic education in the United States.
As bishop of Philadelphia, he organized the parochial school system into a diocesan one, increasing the number of pupils almost twentyfold within a short time. Gifted with outstanding organizing ability, he drew into the city many teaching communities of sisters and the Christian Brothers. During his brief assignment as vice provincial for the Redemptorists, he placed them in the forefront of the parochial movement.
We owe much to St. John Neumann for his ability to organize Catholic education in this country. So today we are thankful for our teachers and educators and catechists who over the years have led us all to the faith, and given us a glimpse at the light of Christ.