St. John Nepomucene Neumann 3.28.1811 - 1.5.1860

Artist: 
Lewis Williams, OFS

Artist's Narrative:
January 5, 1860; the reluctant Bishop of Philadelphia's work on earth came to a close, yet his real work had only begun. Visitors to his grave soon began reporting miraculous favors at his intercession, which led to the canonization of John N. Neumann.

Born in Bohemia (Czech Republic), he was considered a bookworm, whose interest was in the sciences. After seminary studies, he sailed to America, arriving unannounced in Manhattan; unsure of his fate like so many immigrants. Bishop DuBois, stating his great need for priests, ordained him June 25, 1836 and assigned his parish; 900 sq miles around Buffalo, NY. Poor, multi-ethnic immigrants and Indians were his parishioners. Walking daily upwards of 20 miles through dangerous territory, he was once nearly hung by bandits. He eventually learned and spoke 12 languages. He developed a special love of kids which blossomed into his most well-known calling; the development of Catholic schools and catechisms. Seeking more personal spiritual growth, he joined the Redemptorists in 1842. He had major assignments in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Rumors started that he would be named bishop. He asked friends to pray against this, feeling very inadequate. He was named Bishop in 1852. Often ridiculed for his simplicity, meekness and poverty, he accepted this as his walk with Christ.

In this icon, St. John wears his Redemptorist habit. The red background is the color of the bishop’s robe. John Paul II, who died during the painting of this icon, was buried in his bishop colors. The Feast of the Exhaltation of the Cross held great meaning to him, thus the choice to show him holding a cross of sticks, symbolic of his first chapel built of logs, and his time serving in the American wilderness. The banner is the motto he chose for his bishop’s coat of arms, in English, "The passion of Christ strengthens me."

His feast day is January 5.

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