In Memoriam: Father Christian A. Rohmiller
Every true Christian has, I think, a spiritual mentor, a Father in the Lord who has left a lasting imprint on their spiritual life-a person without whom their relationship with the Lord would not be the same. For me, Father Chris Rohmiller was that person.
Father Chris was many things in his life: He was a pastor, a Benedictine Oblate (he introduced me to Benedictine spiritual life), a Knight of Columbus, a world traveler, a missionary, and a campus minister. It was in this final role that he entered my life, and that was the role he valued most. He devoted his life to the spiritual and physical welfare of young people. In my case, he took a 21 year-old youngster who desperately needed for God to return to the center of his life, and he saw to it that this was precisely what happened. I walked into the little A-frame chapel on the campus of Wright State University (that was not officially on campus) and I went to Mass one Sunday. After Mass, Father Chris came up to me and introduced himself and we talked for a few minutes. Knowing that I was engaged in that search for truth that many young people that age are engaged in, at the end of that conversation, he smiled and said “well, we need to get you baptized.”
Eight months later, Father Chris did the honors.
A few years later, he jokingly told me that if his cause for sainthood were ever introduced in Rome, he would be instantly rejected as soon as the Congregation for the Causes of Saints found out that he was the priest who baptized me and gave me my First Holy Communion!
I have been told in years past that I “know everybody,” because people remember me. (Often, more remember me than I remember them!) However, this was far more true for Father Chris than anyone I ever knew. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. This truth came home to me when a student from India came to the Campus Ministry Building for Mass one Sunday and he and Father Chris began talking. As it turned out, Father Chris knew members of this young man’s family who lived half way around the world.
Father Chris’ devotion to young people was never-ending. During finals week every year, he attempted to assist many students with the insomnia that accompanies such times by providing as much pizza and doughnuts as we wanted to eat. In addition to that, he joined us for spirited conversation and many a good card game on those late nights. Every year, he took a group of students on a spiritual retreat for a weekend. For many of us, these retreats were life-changing events that re-affirmed the role of God and the Church in our existence. Father Chris’ strong preaching didn’t hurt, either. Committed to the pro-life cause, Father Chris not only preached that Christianity and Catholic life was counter-cultural, he also reminded me on numerous occasions that the Church is not a political party. “We are neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party at prayer,” he used to say.
He put his time and money where his mouth was. Every Friday night he could be found down at the Fairborn Knights of Columbus Hall selling instant bingo tickets to raise money for Catholic Campus Ministry. He even drove many of us to St. Meinrad Archabbey so that we could have a private spiritual retreat of our own. He was also the Chaplain of the Fairborn Council of the Knights, and sponsored my entry into the Knights of Columbus. He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and helped countless many who could not help themselves. He was a champion and a voice for those who had no voice of their own.
Father Chris Rohmiller died at his Fairborn, Ohio apartment last night. I am told he had a heart attack while recuperating from the flu, and his long time assistant Joan Marquis became concerned when Father Chris was entirely too late for Mass. He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The Funeral Mass will be on Thursday at 12:00 Noon at the Church of St. Albert the Great in Kettering, Ohio. It is with great sadness that I must say that my work schedule will not allow me to attend-I dearly wish that it would. I am dearly hoping that there will me a Memorial of sorts at the weekend, as if there is, Nicole and I will be driving up to be there.
Father Chris was a spiritual father to so many young people. I sincerely hope and pray that in years to come, the people he touched will be a lasting memorial to his influence in a spiritually lost world.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace, Amen.
May his soul, and the souls of all the Faithful Departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.