Learn about the life of the holy man who became the only canonized North American bishop, St. John Neumann. Join him on his adventures in following God’s will as he travels from Europe to America and becomes a Redemptorist priest. Later, when the pope makes him Bishop of Philadelphia, he journeys throughout his new diocese to meet the people. Listening to the needs of his flock, he built thirty churches, started the Catholic school system, and was loved by all.
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Missionary to Immigrants
Written by Laura Rhoderica Brown, FSP
Illustrated by Virginia Esquinaldo
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Brown, Laura Rhoderica, author. | Esquinaldo, Virginia, illustrator.
Title: Saint John Neumann : missionary to immigrants / written by LauraRhoderica Brown, FSP ; illustrated by Virginia Esquinaldo.
Description: Boston, MA : Pauline Books & Media, 2016.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016021509| ISBN 9780819890665 (pbk.) | ISBN 0819890669 pbk.)
Subjects: LCSH: Neumann, John, Saint, 1811-1860--Juvenile literature. |Christian saints--United States--Biography--Juvenile literature.
Classification: LCC BX4700.N4 .B76 2016 | DDC 282.092 [B] --dc23LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016021509
Cover art and illustrations by Virginia Esquinaldo
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
“P” and PAULINE are registered trademarks of the Daughters of Saint Paul.
Copyright © 2016, Daughters of St. Paul
Published by Pauline Books & Media, 50 Saint Paul’s Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3491
Printed in the U.S.A.
SJN VSAUSAPEOILL8-1610064 9066-9
Pauline Books & Media is the publishing house of the Daughters of Saint Paul, an international congregation of women religious serving the Church with the communications media.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 20 19 18 17 16
Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto
Shepherds of Fatima
Blessed James Alberione
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Journey to the Summit
Journeys with Mary
Apparitions of Our Lady
Saint Anthony of Padua
Fire and Light
Saint Andre Bessette
Miracles in Montreal
Saint Bernadette Soubirous
And Our Lady of Lourdes
Saint Catherine Labouré
And Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Saint Clare of Assisi
A Light for the World
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Daughter of America
Saint Faustina Kowalska
Messenger of Mercy
Saint Francis of Assisi
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
The Gift of Life
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
For the Greater Glory of God
Saint Joan of Arc
Saint John Paul II
Be Not Afraid
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Saint Martin de Porres
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
Rich in Love
Saint Teresa of Avila
Joyful in the Lord
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
The Way of Love
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Missionary of Truth
Saint Thomas More
Courage, Conscience, and the King
For even more titles in theEncounter the Saints series,visit: www.pauline.org./EncountertheSaints
1. Growing in Grace
2. Leaving Home
3. Meeting Adalbert
4. Trouble at Home
5. Doctor or Priest?
6. Road to Priesthood
7. Adventures in Prague
8. Off to Be a Missionary!
9. Heading to a New Land
10. Answered Prayers
11. Frontier Pastor
13. The Big Surprise!
14. A New Beginning
15. An Unexpected Request
17. Secrets of Success
18. Forty Hours with Jesus
19. A Visit to Rome
20. Visits with Friends
21. Home Again
22. Always Be Ready
“Mama! Mamaaaaaaaa! I can hear John talking to himself. Tell him to go to sleep!”
“Wenceslaus, what is going on?” asked Mama Agnes as she shuffled into the boys’ bedroom, yawning.
Her eldest son, John, still fully dressed, was sitting on his bed. The ten-year-old boy did not seem to notice his mother enter the room. He ran one hand through his tousled hair as his dark brown eyes were trained on the book he was intently reading. Her youngest son, Wenceslaus— or Wenzel as he was often called—rubbed his eyes from where he lay tucked in bed.
“Why in heaven’s name are you not asleep, John Nepomucene (nay-POE-moo-seen) Neumann? Do you realize you’re keeping Wenzel awake? You may be named after Bohemia’s patron saint, Saint John of Nepomucene, but you’re not being very nice to your little brother.”
John looked up, startled at the sound of her voice. He smiled at her and said excitedly, “Papa told me today about the day I was baptized. He said that because of my Baptism I can receive Jesus in the Eucharist tomorrow. I just thought I would read some more about Baptism before I go to bed.”
John noticed his mother’s eyebrows furrowing in frustration and added, “I’m sorry, Mama. I know it’s late. I’m just excited to receive my first Communion tomorrow.”
Mama Agnes’ face softened. “I understand, John. Tomorrow is a special day… which is why you need to go to sleep. Besides, you already know that catechism backward and forward. That’s why our parish priest said that you could receive your first Communion!”
“You’re right, Mama. But I feel that no matter how much I learn, there is so much more to learn.” John sighed. “Mama, I was just wondering what that day was like, when I was baptized. Who was there?”
“Yeah,” Wenzel piped in. “I don’t remember John being baptized. What was it like?”
Mama sighed and sat down on the bed. She thought for a moment and said, “It was March 28, 1811, the same day John was born. You weren’t there, Wenzel, because you weren’t born yet; neither were your sisters Joan or Louisa. And I wasn’t there because I needed to rest. But John’s godparents, the Mareks, and your sisters Catherine and Veronica were all present.”
“I don’t remember John being baptized. What was it like, Mama?”
“I bet Catherine and Veronica were giggling the whole time,” laughed John.
“Aren’t they always giggling together about something?” Wenzel guffawed and jumped up on John’s bed to listen more closely to Mama Agnes’ story.
Mama Agnes paused for a moment and smiled. “Papa was so proud to have a son. He was smiling from ear to ear the entire day. He was so happy when both of you came into the world, just as he was when the girls were born.”
Then with a faraway look in her eyes, she added, “And he was so happy to see you baptized, John. The workers in his weaving shop told me he was practically bursting with pride that day.” She smoothed John’s hair and then continued, “And I remember Papa told me that when Father baptized you, he said that he had a feeling that God had some amazing plans for your life.” She smiled, then patted Wenzel on the head. “Which of course is true for you both.”
John thought for a moment. “It is amazing, Mama, that God has a plan for everyone. And that he comes to live in our souls through Baptism and then he comes to us in the Eucharist! It’s almost too much to understand. But I was wondering something.…”
“As you always do!” laughed Mama. “One last question, and then you must go to sleep; you have a big day tomorrow.”
“Well, I was thinking about how Jesus is in heaven, but I will also receive him tomorrow! He will be in two places at the same time! How is that possible?”
“Yeah, Mama, how does he do that?” Wenzel, who had been falling asleep, sat up in his bed.
Mama Agnes smiled at them and said, “I suppose because he is God, so he is all-powerful and can be everywhere at all times. I remember during one homily our pastor said that God is not bound by time or space like we are.”
“Oh, that makes sense,” said John; then he added, “and, well, as I was thinking about heaven, I began to think about many things. I have so many questions!”
“Oh John, you are always full of questions. But it’s late; you should be sleeping, not thinking!”
“But Mama, I have one last question! How is it that clouds float in the air without falling?”
“John, that’s enough questions for one night. Let the clouds float; you don’t have to hold them. You’ll learn much more the more you go to school. You’re a very intelligent boy. Look how well you’ve done in school so far.” She stood up from the bed and kissed both boys on the forehead. “But right now, both of you go to sleep.”
Early the next morning the Neumann family headed to the Church of St. James in their small village of Prachatitz (PRA-ha-jeets) in Bohemia. The church was decorated beautifully with many flowers on the altar, flowers that John’s sisters had picked. Mama Agnes and Papa Philip were sitting in the pews with all of John’s siblings. They all were dressed in their very best. John sat up in one of the first few pews, nervously twisting his hands together. He had prepared so long for this sacrament, and now it was actually happening.
The Mass started as people were still coming through the doors; some even had to stand along the walls. When the choir sang the Gloria, John was filled with joy. He had begun going regularly to Mass with his mother, so he knew almost all of the parts of the Mass by heart. But on this special day he paid particular attention to every detail. When John saw the priest raise the Eucharist after the consecration, he thought, Maybe one day I will be a priest and will be able to give the Body of Jesus to other people!
After Mass, the townspeople gathered in the church hall to celebrate. John’s mouth watered at the mountains of food: sauerkraut, sausages, beer for the grown-ups, and lots of sweets. They all enjoyed the music and dancing.
“What a special day, John! I hope you remember this day when you are older,” Mama Agnes said proudly as they left the church.
“Oh, I will. I waited so long for it!” John exclaimed.
“You are growing up so quickly,” Mama said. “Before you know it, you’ll be leaving home to continue going to school.”
“Away from home? When will that be?” John asked curiously.
“In a couple of years.… Your father and I think it would be good for you to go to school away from home.”
Away from home… the words echoed in John’s head. His heart sank.
“I don’t want you to go, John!” Wenceslaus cried with tear-filled eyes.
John spoke softly to his younger brother, “I know, Wenzel, but you can’t come with me.” John was now twelve years old and had been admitted to the Gymnasium in Budweis (BOOD-vise), a school for advanced students. Budweis was a day’s journey from his family’s village of Prachatitz. John was happy to continue studying, but it was going to be difficult to be away from his family.
“But why can’t I go with you?” Wenzel exclaimed.
“Because you’re too young,” answered Catherine, John’s oldest sister. “Now tell us where you put John’s satchel.…”
“I know where he put it!” said Joan and Louisa, John’s younger sisters, almost in unison.
Joan ran off and came back triumphantly holding the satchel. Wenzel’s face crinkled in anger as he crossed his arms.
“I know you all will miss me, but I will be home for vacations and holidays,” said John. “I promise!”
“Who says we will miss you, John?” teased Catherine with a smile. “I’m looking forward to not having to listen to your constant questions and reflections. You think too much!”
John laughed and gave Catherine a hug, then bent down to hug each of his siblings. I will miss my family so much. Can I really do this? John thought as his face grew serious. Can I be away from the family I love so much?
The sound of Papa Philip’s voice broke through his thoughts. “Hurry up, John!” Papa Philip called out. “Time to go!”
“Yes, Papa. I’m coming,” responded John. Mama Agnes stood in the front doorway of the family’s home. She looked at her eldest son and tried to smile.
“John,” she said quietly in Czech. The Neumann family usually spoke German, so John knew to pay special attention when Mama Agnes spoke to him in her native language. “I know you’ll study hard,” she continued, “you always do. And don’t feel too sad. We will miss each other, but it is because your family loves you so much that we miss you!”
“I’ll miss all of you too, Mama. And yes, I’ll study hard,” John promised.
John’s four sisters gathered at the door with Mama Agnes and Wenzel as John walked down the front path toward the wagon. Sitting next to his father, John turned and waved even as he fought back tears. Papa Philip guided the horses down the road.
John sat quietly and watched as they passed the places he knew so well. “Papa,” John wondered aloud, “what do you think this school will be like?”
“You will have good teachers and you will share a room with some other boys. Are you feeling nervous, John?” Papa said gently. After a moment of silence, Papa Philip continued, “It’s normal to feel nervous. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s hard to be away from family. But I think this will be good for you. You’ll learn so much at the Gymnasium in Budweis. You love to learn, John; it is a gift.”
“It’s true, Papa,” said John. “I hate to leave all of you, but I am excited to study. I can’t wait to learn more. I especially want to learn more languages; I loved studying Latin in Prachatitz. And I want to learn more about botany and astronomy. There is just so much to learn!”
Papa Philip laughed. “That’s my boy! See, you will come back with a head full of knowledge; very soon you will know more than I.”
“I doubt that, Papa. You read so much!” laughed John.
“I will miss our evenings reading by the fire, son,” said Papa.
“Me too,” said John sadly. “But son, you will make some good friends, and before you know it, you will feel right at home,” said Papa Philip reassuringly.
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