Religion: The Saint They Almost Overlooked

He stood but 5 ft. 4 in., so they called him "the little priest." He was a shy sort, not much of an orator, and enough the awkward immigrant from Bohemia that some of his colleagues lobbied in vain with Rome to keep him from becoming the bishop of cultured Philadelphia. When he died at 48, the carvers misspelled his name on the tombstone.

John Nepomucene Neumann,* who on June 19 becomes America's third Roman Catholic saint, was no ecclesiastical superstar, but a priest of simple piety and workaday faithfulness. So much so that Vatican officials who screen candidates for sainthood nearly...

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