John Neumann was born on March 28, 1811 in Bohemia, to Philip and Agnes Neumann. He grew up with four sisters and one brother.

After college, John entered the seminary, but on the day he was to be ordained, the bishop was sick, and the date was never rescheduled, as Bohemia had enough priests. John decided to go to America to be ordained, walking most of the way to France, and then boarding a ship to New York.

On June 9, 1836, John arrived in Manhattan. He was welcomed by Bishop John Dubois, who was badly in need of priests — he had only 36 priests to serve the 200,000 Catholics living in New York and New Jersey. Just 16 days after he arrived, John was ordained and sent to Buffalo.

Father John established himself in a small log parish house. He often lived only on bread and water, and rarely lit a fire. He joined the Redemptorist order, and continued his missionary work. John was elected bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. As bishop, he built 50 churches, and began the construction of a cathedral. He opened almost 100 schools, bringing the number of students from 500 to 9,000.

Bishop John died suddenly on January 5, 1860. He became the first American bishop to be beatified, and was canonized by Pope Paul VI on June 19, 1977.