On 22 January the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints signed the “nulla osta” for the start of the diocesan enquiry concerning the martyrdom of the Slovak Salesian priest Fr Titus Zeman (1915 – 1969). His story is an excellent example to fidelity to the cause of Don Bosco.
Fr Titus Zeman was born into a Christian family on 4 January 1915 at Vajnory, near Bratislava. He wanted to become a priest from 10 years of age and completed his secondary school and sixth form studies with the Salesians in Šaštín, Hronský Svätý Benedikt and Frištak u Holešova; in 1931 he made his novitiate and on 7 March 1938 made his Perpetual Profession at the Sacred Heart in Rome.
A student of theology at the Gregorian University in Rome and then in Chieri, he spent his spare time carrying out his apostate in the Oratory. In Turin, on 23 June 1940, he achieved his long-held goal of priestly ordination at the hands of Cardinal Maurizio Fossati. On 4 August 1940, in Vajnory, his home town he said his first mass.
When in April 1950 the Czechoslovak communist regime forbade religious orders and began deporting religious men and women to concentration camps it became necessary to organise in secret journeys to Turin to enable religious to complete their studies. Fr Zeman took on this dangerous task.
The Servant of God organised two expeditions for over 60 young Salesians. At the third attempt Fr Zeman, together with those escaping were arrested. He was subjected to a hard trial, during which he was described as a traitor to the fatherland and a Vatican spy, and even risked death. On 22 February 1952, in consideration of some attenuating circumstances he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Fr Zeman came out of prison on remand only after 12 years incarceration on 10 March 1964. Indelibly marked by the sufferings endured in prison he died five years later on 8 January 1969, surrounded by the glorious reputation of a martyr and a saint.
Fr Titus Zeman is the 172nd “special ones” of the Salesian Family and the 28th Servant of God. In the next few weeks in the diocese of Bratislava, where the Servant of God died, the opening session of the diocesan process will be celebrated.
In the afternoon of 26 February in the Assembly Hall of the Faculty of Theology in Bratislava the solemn public session was held of the opening of the diocesan enquiry in view of the beatification and canonisation of the Servant of God Fr Tito Zeman (1915 – 1969).
After welcoming those present the Vice-Postulator, the Salesian Fr Jozef Slivoň, read a short biography of Fr Titus and repeated the request for the opening of the diocesan enquiry into the life, virtues and reputation for holiness of the Servant of God.
The Archbishop of Bratislava Stanislav Zvolenský, after having expressed his favourable opinion for the opening of the enquiry presented the decree of appointment of the members of the Tribunal composed of the following: President Delegate Dr. Jozef Kemp, Promoter of Justice Fr Milan Čaniga and the Notary Mrs Mária Žebiková who then took the prescribed oath.
This was followed by the appointment and the taking of the oath of the historical experts. The Vice-Postulator presented the list of the witnesses to be interviewed, and the session closed with the solemn Blessing of the Archbishop.
Among those present were the Provincial of the Salesians in Slovakia, Fr Karol Maník, the Vice Provincial of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and also the Provincial Coordinator of the Salesians-Cooperators. Also present were three sisters of the Servant of God, his nephew Michal Titus Radosinsky and about 150 other invited guests. The event was recorded by TV LUX.