To mark today’s feast of St. John Neumann, here is an excerpt from the late Fr. Robert F. McNamara’s book The Diocese of Rochester in America: 1868-1993, a copy of which arrived with today’s mail:
[N]ew parishioners were served for a week (in 1936) by a young Austro-Hungarian priest who was just beginning a uniquely notable career. A native of Bohemia, John Nepomucene Neumann (1811-1860) had recently crossed the Atlantic to enter the service of the Diocese of New York. Bishop Dubois ordained him to the priesthood on June 25, 1836, and assigned him forthwith to the German farming community at Williamsville near Buffalo. He likewise told him to stop over in Rochester on a missionary visit. The next day, June 26th, Father Neumann celebrated his first Mass in New York and set out for his first post: “mit Sack und Pack,” as he said. When his canal boat, “the Indiana,” approached Rochester on July 4th, he was welcomed by the sound of cannons saluting Independence Day. He spent from the 4th to the 11th in Rochester. Here he performed the first pastoral functions of his priestly life. On July 7th at St. Patrick’s Church, he baptized the infant Caroline Koch. On Sunday, the 10th, he delivered his first sermon at two Masses. He went on to Buffalo the next day. Father Neumann subsequently became a member, and later on the viceregent of American Redemptorists. From 1852 to 1860, he was bishop of Philadelphia. During his lifetime he was regarded as a living saint, and the Church eventually confirmed that belief.
On a return trip to Rochester 1847, he led a parish mission at the city’s legendary St. Joseph Church, which burned in the early 1970s. Only the church’s hulking facade could be saved, and “Old St. Joe’s” community merged with Our Lady of Victory parish around the corner. Our Lady of Victory/St. Joseph parish, a bastion of orthodoxy, remains to this day.