Blessed Theodore Romzha (1911-1947)
Blessed Theodore Romzha, the patron of the new Mission and the first church named after him in the United States, was born in the Subcarpathia region of what is now the Ukraine on April 14, 1911. As a seminarian he was sent to Rome to study and was ordained a priest there on December 25, 1936. Completing his compulsory military service he served briefly as a pastor before being assigned as Spiritual Director and Professor at the Eparchial Seminary in Uzhorod in 1939.
These were difficult years for the Church in Subcarpathia as it experienced the invasions first by Nazi Germany and then the Soviet Red Army. In 1944 at the young age of 33 he was consecrated a Bishop and appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of Mukachevo.
During this time he ministered tireless to the faithful of the Eparchy, defending them from the Soviet aggression and preparing them for the persecution to come. His ministry to the faithful met with many roadblocks, but he managed to find a way around them.
This angered the Communist officials who now began looking for ways to kill the young, energetic and popular Bishop. Towards the end of October, 1947 an opportunity presented itself. On the way home from a parish visitation, Bishop Romzha’s horse drawn carriage was purposely rammed by a Soviet military truck and pushed off the side of the road. The soldiers (dressed as civilians) jumped from the truck and beat the Bishop and his companions. Soon after the brutal assault began a civilian truck came upon the scene and the assailants fled. Bishop Romzha and his companions were taken to Uzhorod where they were hospitalized.
The Bishop was making good progress when late on the night of October 31 a new relief nurse was assigned to the Bishop. A little after midnight Bishop Romzha was found dead. The relief nurse had mysteriously disappeared. It was believed that she had administered a poison to the Bishop that caused his death.
Bishop Theodore Romzha was beatified as a Martyr for the Faith by Pope John Paul II on June 27, 2001 with November 1st assigned as his feast day.
Theodore Romzha was a Bishop of action, a defender of the faith, a man of prayer and suffering who possessed a great love for the people he was called to serve and for whom he gave his life.
Blessed Theodore was a man of the outdoors. And like another Eastern European who became John Paul II, he was an avid hiker, camper, and outdoor athlete from his youth. This combined with his love of Christ and His people makes him the perfect patron of our new Alaskan mission.