Saint John Neumann

5 January

Saint John Neumann was born in 1811, in Bohemia, what we now know as Czech Republic, a small country in Central Europe. He knew that to be successful in life it was important for him to learn more than his native Czech language. In fact he learned six other languages!

When still a youth, John knew that he was called to become a priest. He started his studies for the priesthood, but when he had completed his theological studies, he could not find a bishop to ordain him as a priest. There were too many priests in Europe and there were not enough parishes where they could be placed.
John did not lose heart. He wrote to Bishop John Dubois of New York, asking him if he would accept him in his diocese. The bishop did accept him and John left his homeland determined to get to the New World as America was known at the time. He walked from Bohemia to France, from where he could get on a ship to New York where he arrived ‘with one dollar in his pocket and one suit of clothes.’

The bishop ordained him and John started to fulfil his missionary vocation, travelling on horseback to various mission parishes, sleeping very little and thriving on just bread and water on most days. He was welcomed, but he was also made fun of! John had a rather clumsy appearance and he was so short that his feet did not reach the stirrups when he was on horseback.

After a while working on his own, John felt the vocation to belong to a community of priests. He joined the Redemptorist, a Congregation of Priests who lived as a community with the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In time he was elected Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists in the United States and later, he was appointed Bishop of Philadelphia, thus becoming in charge of a wide diocese consisting of large numbers of immigrants as he had been years before.
As Bishop, he continued to establish new parishes and schools around his diocese. He remains known for the creation of the first Parochial School Unified System in the United States.

However he met with great antagonism as he had to deal with anti-Catholic riots that led to churches and convents being burned. But John Neumann persevered in his mission and he continued to lead a simple life, giving away possessions, keeping for himself the bare minimum.
He died of a heart attack as he was walking along a street in Philadelphia while he was attending to the needs of his diocese. He was forty-eight years old.
Pope Pius Xll praised him for “his holy life, childlike gentleness, hard labour and tremendous foresight.”

St. John Neumann achieved so much in his life not because he was good-looking. In fact he was short and clumsy. It was his inner qualities that led him to achieve great things for God.

As parents and caregivers, we play an important role in encouraging a good body image in our children, in a society where the media pushes stereotypes dictating that body images promise acceptance and success in society. Let us promote the fundamental truth that to be healthy, successful, popular, does not depend on a body shape or size or colour of skin, but on the person’s qualities, personality and talents.

No one is perfect but everyone is unique. There is no other person like me. (With the older children one can point out how every person’s fingerprints are distinctively different from any other person!)

Take the opportunity to talk to the children about if they would love to be like any one of the characters in their favourite tv show/book and why.
Discuss: Is the way a person looks the most important thing? What other factors would you admire in a person?
Grasp opportunities to pass positive comments not only on how they look but also on their inner qualities.

Talk to the children about how St. John Neumann never lost heart as he persevered to achieve his goal, that of bringing Jesus to the people of his diocese.

  • This happens to us too! Start a conversation with the children about situations/challenges they find difficult to achieve. Listen to them. Take their suggestions as to how they can overcome them.
  • Point out that the secret to success is to keep trying, even if you fail the first time!
  • Re-visit  any New Year Resolution. If you haven’t talked about it, do so now . . . and focus on just one or two only that might require perseverance.e.g. for the younger child- play a new game, ride a bicycle, finish what they start.        

For the older ones- improve grades, put more time for study, new sport/skill
Cut out a star decorate and print on it :
I think I can – I think I can – I KNOW I CAN

For Family Prayer Time

  • Thank God for the beautiful qualities He gave us. Start them off with : Thank you Lord for…………
  • Thank God for teachers, catechists who continue to promote Catholic Education. (Mention them by name)
  • Pray God to continue helping and protecting the Pope, the Archbishop, Bishops, Parish Priest, other Priests they know. Let them mention them by name so that they become familiar with their names )
  • As we celebrate the feast of Epiphany we remember the perseverance of the Three Wise Men to find the King that had been born! 

Celebrate by singing together “We Three Kings of Orient Are

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.