Son of Philip, who was German and owned a stocking factory, and Agnes Neumann who was Czech. John was a small and quiet boy with four sisters and a brother, and was named after Saint John Nepomucene. An excellent student, John early felt drawn to religious life. Seminarian at Budweis, Bohemia in 1813, he studied astronomy and botany in addition to theological topics. Studied theology at Charles Ferdinand University at Prague in 1833.
When time came for his ordination, the bishop was sick; the date for was never reset because Bohemia had an over-abundance of priests. John decided to go to America to ask for ordination and work with emigres. He walked most of the way to France, then took ship for America.
John arrived unannounced in Manhattan in 1836. Bishop John Dubois was happy to see him as there were 36 priests for the 200,000 Catholics in New York and New Jersey. John was ordained on 28 June 1836, and sent to Buffalo. There the parish priest, Father Pax, gave him the choice of the city of Buffalo or of the rural area; John chose the more difficult country area. He stayed in a small town with an unfinished church, and when it was completed, he moved to a town with a log church. There he built himself a small log cabin, rarely lit a fire, slept little, often lived on bread and water, and walked miles to visit farm after remote farm. John's parishioners were from many lands and tongues, but John knew twelve languages, and worked with them all.
Joined the Redemptorists at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1840, taking his vows at Baltimore, Maryland in 1841, the first Redemptorist to do so in the United States. Home missionary in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Rector of Saint Philomena church in Pittsburgh in 1844. Vice-regent and superior of the Redemptorists in America in 1847. Bishop of Philadelphia in 1852.
Built fifty churches and began building a cathedral. Opened almost one hundred schools, and the number of parochial school students in his diocese grew from 500 to 9,000. Wrote newspaper articles, two catechisms, and many works in German. First American man and first American bishop to be canonized.
28 March 1811 at Prachititz, Bohemia (Czech Republic)
5 January 1860 of a stroke at 13th and Vine Streets, Philadephia, Pennsylvania, USA
God is gracious; gift of God (John)