2011-02-03 • PERSONA
Year of the Blessed Martyr Theodore Romzha
37th known by name Bishop of Mukachevo Greek Catholic Eparchy and 25th after
the Uzhgorod Union of 1646. He firmly led the Eparchy during the most critical period
when following prohibitions and severe oppressions it was at the point of destruction. The
victim of persecutions that suffered our Church also became Bishop-confessor Romzha that
represented to clergy and the faithful example of an unshakable fidelity and fortitude.
Theodore was born on April 14, 1911 in the village Velykyj Bychkiv in Transcarpathia and was 9th child in the family of Pavlo Romzha and Mariya Semak. The family lived modestly, in the Christian spirit. Interesting is the fact that little Theodore liked very much to listen to the stories from the lives of the saints, and when it was about martyrdom he often wept. Compassion or premonition? As a child he was even-tempered though not passive, his good talents became apparent yet in kindergarten.
Elementary education he received in Velykyj Bychkiv National School, afterwards he studied in Khust High School (1922-1930) and graduated it with excellent grades. As a high school student Theodore was courageous, friendly, sociable, his look “illuminated” everyone he talked to, he never raised voice to offend anyone. For his justice many younger children asked him to decide their bigger or smaller disputes establishing peace among them. He was also a great sportsman. Beside that Theodore sang in the church choir and often read the
Epistles during the Liturgy.
In spite of teacher recommendations to become an engineer, he, hearing in his heart Christ’s call, prepares for Rome to become a priest. At the end of October 1930 Theodore arrives in Rome to study at the Collegium Germanicum-Hungaricum, but in the fall of 1934
moves to Collegium Russicum. He completes his philosophical and theological studies in
Pontifical Gregorian University.
On December 25, 1935 Bishop Cyril ordained Theodore as a deacon, and on
December 25, 1936 at 9.00 o’clock in the morning in the church of Saint Antony he was
ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Alexander. In June 1937 after receiving License degree,
Father Theodore returns home to serve in the army.
Father Theodore began his pastoral activity on March 10, 1938 when Eparchial Bishop
entrusts to him administration of the parishes in the villages Nyzhnij Bystryj and Berezovo. It
was not an easy task. There were many orthodoxies and even more atheists. In both parishes
spiritual and economic affairs were in a neglected state. 11 kilometers distance between them
he often managed riding a bicycle. In his opinion local population was of good disposition,
but perverse. The most evident problem – people’s superstitiousness, against which he had
to fight with great strictness interwoven with love and that was pleasing to people that loved
very much their priest. Although Theodore studied in Russicum to work among Orthodoxies
in his vision before one starts to convert Orthodoxies it is necessary to bring up such
Catholics that would show them a good example.
Father Theodore longed to return to Rome to complete his Doctorate studies, but due
to concatenation of circumstances it remained just a dream.
End of summer 1939 brought into the life of Theodore unexpected change. Instead
of continuing his studies in Rome Father Theodore was appointed by the Bishop Alexander
Stoyka as a Spiritual Director and a Professor of Philosophy at the Uzhgorod Seminary. At
the Seminary Father Theodore works hard to bring about changes that would improve the
level of education of the seminarians. When Father Theodore served Divine Liturgy it was a
real lifting up of his soul to God, and his life at the Seminary served to seminarians as a good
example of a true priest of Christ.
Even though appointment to the Seminary was for Father Theodore unexpected and
surprising, still it was as a drop in the ocean in comparison with what awaited him in the near
future. In September 1944 he received a bull with a message that he was appointed a Bishop
of Mukachevo Greek Catholic Eparchy.
His Episcopal consecration took place in Uzhgorod at the cathedral church on
September 24, 1944.
Episcopal service of the Most Reverent Theodore was short, nevertheless each
moment of it was filled with love for Christ and His Church and a care for the faithful and
eparchial clergy to foster in them fearless and courageous fidelity to the Catholic Church.
In what was the secret of his strength? Answer to this question gives us his slogan written
on the back of the image cards from his Episcopal consecration: “I will love You, Lord, my
strength; the Lord is my fortress, my refuge and my deliverance.” (Ps.17.2, Liturgy of Saint
John Chrysostom). Jesus was the One whom he loved above all; He was the strength of his
will fighting the atheists, the stronghold that granted his faith steadfast foundation and refuge
in difficult moments of his earthly pilgrimage to Eternal Life.
Leaders of godless regime perceived that the only thing that could hinder Bishop
Theodore to serve Christ’s Church is death. That conclusion led to that that on Monday,
October 27, 1947 around 9.00 in the morning there was staged a highway accident near
Mukachevo the result of which was that Bishop Theodore and his fellow travelers were
seriously injured, and only thanks to Divine Providence they were quickly conveyed to
the Mukachevo hospital. The blood of martyr had sprinkled the land of Transcarpathia so
that “the Church tree” that grows on it would bring forth much fruit. Five days Bishop spent
at the hospital suffering pain but there was not heard a word of complaint from his mouth.
He said: “To suffer and to shed blood for Christ, for the Faith, for the Catholic Church is an
immense grace and a great honor.”
Early morning on October 31, 1947 Bishop Theodore received Holy Sacraments
of Penance and the Eucharist at the hospital not knowing that he did it last time in his life.
Few hours afterwards he was poisoned. Shortly before midnight his heart made the last beat
proclaiming: “To die for Christ is to live forever” (Theodore Romzha).
On November 4, 1947 faithful and eparchy clergy paid last homage to their Bishop-
martyr Theodore. His body was laid in the crypt of Uzhgorod cathedral until the resurrection
of the dead.
On June 27, 2001 at 11.47 a.m. in L’viv Holy Father John Paul II proclaimed Bishop
Theodore a Blessed so that the entire Church would honor the memory of this fearless
Christ’s soldier asking his intercession.
October 31st is assigned as a feast day of the Blessed Martyr Theodore Romzha.