The Rev. Manuel Raphael Roman, the former pastor of the Church of the Ascension in Halethorpe and an Archdiocese of Baltimore education official, died of congestive heart failure at St. Martin’s Home for the Aged. He was 93.
Born in Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, he was the son of Manuel Roman and J. Maria Quinenos.
He was a 1943 graduate of Christiansted High School and moved to Baltimore, where he earned a degree in French at the Johns Hopkins University. He lived in the 3200 block of Guilford Ave. and joined SS. Philip and James Church in Charles Village. As a young man he was undecided about a career and considered medicine, teaching and the military. While at Hopkins he took advanced ROTC courses, trained at Fort Meade and in 1949 was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Infantry Reserve.
He consulted a parish priest, the Rev. Francis Flanagan, who put him in touch with then-Bishop Lawrence J. Shehan, who was later named Baltimore’s cardinal.
“[Bishop] Shehan asked whether or not Father Roman had considered being a priest,” said a biography supplied by the archdiocese.
He told the bishop he had considered the idea after reading a church publication, “Questions About Vocations.” He agreed to enter the priesthood and attended St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and the Theological College at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He was ordained a priest in 1956 at the Basilica of the Assumption.
In a 2005 article in The Catholic Review he said, “I’ve been very happy as a Catholic priest and if I had to do it over again, I’d make the same decision.”
His first assignment as an assistant pastor was to St. Bernardine Church on Edmondson Avenue in Edmondson Village. He also earned a master’s degree at what is now Loyola University Maryland and resided at the rectory of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. He was also an Air Force Civil Patrol chaplain.
In 1962 he began studies for a doctorate at the Johns Hopkins University. In January of 1962, he was appointed to be a pro-synodal judge on the Marriage Tribunal and at the same time was appointed as assistant superintendent of Catholic schools when the archdiocese had an enrollment of 75,000 students.
He was a lecturer in psychology and education at what is now Notre Dame University of Maryland. In 1963 he became the archdiocese’s first director of the Spanish Apostolate and first director of special education.
Father Roman became the University of Maryland’s full-time chaplain in 1966 and served the schools of of Medicine, Law, Nursing, Pharmacy and Social Work.
He completed course work at Johns Hopkins in educational psychology and earned a doctorate in 1973 at Walden University.
In 1977, he was named principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Essex. In July 1979, he was became an associate pastor of St. Philip Neri Church in Linthicum.
In June 1980, he was appointed Principal of Martin Spalding High School in Glen Burnie.
He next spent 19 years as pastor of the Church of the Ascension in Halethorpe, where he endeared himself to his congregation.
He led the construction of a bell tower for the church and a new commercial school kitchen and air conditioning for the classrooms.
“His parishioners were important to him,” said Emma McIntyre, a Catonsville resident and former member of the parish. “He greeted you warmly, and he was right there for anyone who needed him. When my husband was dying of cancer, Father Roman came to the house weekly and said Mass at the bedside. He came back from his vacation for my husband’s funeral. He was that kind of person."
Joe Herbert, a Halethorpe resident, church usher and past president of the Ascension parish council, said, “He was friendly and an excellent listener. He had a dry sense of humor. He was so happy that he was given a parish with a school. He was good with kids and he understood the needs of his parish.”
Another parish member, Mary Hoban, said, “He could be reserved, but when you got to know him, you realized that if he found someone in trouble, he would do anything he could to help. He felt a Catholic education was important and often worked with families to create an education payment plan. He really enjoyed working with students.”
While in retirement, Father Roman celebrated Mass weekly at Shangri-La Assisted Living in Ellicott City and at Heartlands, also in Ellicott City, where he was a resident. He was also visited by persons seeking spiritual direction and counsel.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Church of the Ascension, 4603 Poplar Ave. in Halethorpe.
Survivors include nephews.