Another Thing of Beauty Has Come to Us: A New Shrine In Honor Of Blessed Theodore Romzha
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
Behind the handsome eparchial Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, on the large grass field behind St. George Byzantine Catholic Church, Olympia, Washington, there is a little grove of fir trees where pilgrims find shade during the hot days of August and where children play all year long. A simple wooden wayside shrine displaying an icon of Blessed Theodore Romzha was placed there by the Baron family many years ago. The Barons have since moved away to Texas and the icon of Blessed Theodore, exposed to the elements, had faded.
A couple of weeks ago, however, a beautiful new wooden shrine appeared on the site, carved with decorative scroll work and topped with its own small golden onion domes. It looks like something out of a fairy tale, something I remember from when I visited my family in Bavaria as a child. In Catholic Bavaria, wayside shrines could often be found at lonely crossroads in the middle of vast fields.
Our new shrine was built with much love and in spite of heart problems by Dennis Perez, one of the venerable founders of St. George. Our pastor, Father Vasyl Mutka, donated an icon of Blessed Theodore which is now protected by glass. We, the parishioners of St. George, are delighted to have another thing of beauty added to the grounds. Some little hands, I think, have already declared their love to Blessed Theodore by placing a bouquet of wildflowers on the shrine’s small shelf.
What is the significance of this extraordinary thing of beauty?
In the first place, of course, the icon of Blessed Theodore Romzha is like a family photograph, a picture reminding us of the real person it depicts. Blessed Theodore is certainly a member of our spiritual family. For those of us who are of Ruthenian descent, he may even be biologically related.
However, an icon is so much more than a depiction or a souvenir of a person. An icon is a sacred thing, created with prayer and fasting. It is a channel of grace, grace that flows both ways: through the prayers of the Saint it depicts and through the prayers of us who venerate the icon. It is love flowing back and forth - and spilling over to others who may be in need.
The icon of Blessed Theodore Romzha is a focal point for the parishioners of St.George, for those who are attending St. George at present, for those who have passed away and for those who have moved to other parts of the world – and, I believe, also for those who have staid in the area but have stopped attending St. George.
Blessed Theodore Romzha (1911-47) has special significance for us here at St. George. He was Bishop of the Eparchy of Mukachevo in Subcarpathia, Ukraine. This eparchy is the mother eparchy of our Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church here in the United States. Martyred for his faith by the Soviet KGB, Bishop Romzha was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
Blessed Theodore was first commemorated at St. George when the Baron family, a beloved major force in our little parish, installed the original shrine under the fir trees just before Laura Baron, mother of fourteen, succumbed to cancer. May her memory be eternal!
The name Theodore has since become popular in our parish. In 2015, the Olson family named their eight child Gregory Theodore. When parishioner Tobias Vincent was tonsured a rassophore monk at Duchovny Dom Byzantine Men’s Monastery in Weston, Oregon, in 2017, he received the name of Brother Theodore after Theodore Romzha. Only a year later, Brother Theodore’s new nephew was named Theodore Collins Vincent… If there are any more Theodores at St.George, please let me know!
And there is more: since 2016, we have been able to follow our absentee parishioners and “Carpathian Travellers” Marc and Becky Williams on their travels through the Ruthenian homeland on facebook and blog. Below is Marc’s photo of Holy Cross Greek Catholic Cathedral in Uzhorod where Blessed Theodore is entombed:
The story goes on. I just discovered that the new Wasilla, Alaska, Byzantine Catholic Mission, which is under the administration of Father Joseph Wargacki, a founding member and longtime parishioner of Saint George, has been placed under Bishop Romzha’s protection and is now called Blessed Theodore Romzha Byzantine Catholic Mission.
Bishop Romzha’s intercession has been plentiful in our extended parish community. May the beautiful new shrine in his honor keep us spiritually connected to all the members of our extended parish family and to our Carpathian roots. Let us do our part in the flow of grace and let us prayerfully ask for Bishop Theodore’s intercession.
Thank you, Dennis, for the gift of this beautiful shrine and thank you for the icon, Father Vasyl ! Thanks also to everyone else involved in installing the shrine!
Blessed Theodore Romzha, pray for us!
Tomb of Blessed Theodore Romzha (by avemundi)