John was born in Bohemia in 1811. Bohemia is now known as the Czech Republic. His father was a craftsman. He attended school and was very interested in astronomy and botany. He also spoke six languages. He planned to be ordained a priest in 1835. The bishop decided there would be no more ordinations in Bohemia because the very large number of priests already in Bohemia. John wrote to bishops all over Europe but was unsuccessful. There were so many priests in Europe at this time. There wasn’t enough work for any new priests. John was sure he was called to be a priest.
John didn’t give up. He learned English working in a factory, so he wrote bishops in America. The bishop in New York agreed to ordain him. When he was 25 he was ordained a priest. In New York, John was one of 36 priests for 200,000 Catholic people. The Diocese of New York included all of New York and New Jersey. His parish was from Lake Ontario, near Niagara Falls, to Pennsylvania. His church wasn’t completely built. It didn’t matter because he spent all of his time traveling from village to village, visiting the sick, teaching, and even celebrating Mass at kitchen tables. He also spent time doing missionary work in Maryland, Virginia, and Ohio. He became a naturalized citizen on February 10, 1848
At the age of 41, he was appointed as the Bishop of Philadelphia.He was very good at organizing. During his time as bishop, new parish churches were built at a rate of one nearly every month. He organized the school systems in the diocese. He increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from two to 100. His ability to speak many languages helped the German, and Italian immigrants to his parish.
He became the first bishop to be beatified on October 13, 1963. He was canonized a saint in 1977. He is buried in St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia. He is the patron saint of immigrants and sick children.