Tito Zeman, was born on 4 January 1915 to a Christian family in Vajnory in Bratislava, Slovakia. He became a Salesian and then reached the coveted goal of the priesthood when he was ordained in Turin on 23 June 1940. In April 1950 the communist regime in Czechoslovakia forbade religious orders and began deporting consecrated men and women to the concentration camps. It became necessary to organize clandestine journeys to Turin to enable young Salesians to complete their studies.
Fr Zeman took on this risky activity. The Servant of God organized two expeditions for over 60 young Salesians. During the third expedition Fr Zeman was arrested, together with the fugitives. He was subjected to a severe trial, during which he was described as a traitor and spy of the Vatican, and risked death. On 22 February 1952, because of certain mitigating circumstances, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
On 10 March 1964, Fr Zeman was released after twelve years in prison. Irrevocably marked by the suffering endured in prison, he died five years later, on 8 January 1969. He left a glorious reputation for martyrdom and holiness. He lived his ordeal with a great spirit of sacrifice and self-oblation: “Even if I lost my life, I would not consider it wasted, knowing that at least one of those I had helped had become a priest in my place.” The diocesan inquiry for his beatification was opened in Bratislava on 6 February 2010 and closed on 7 December 2012. The drafting of the Positio super martyrio is near completion.
The life of Don Tito is truly the embodiment of what the Rector Major says in the Strenna for 2015: “We say ‘with the young!’ because what fills our hearts from the moment that Jesus called each one of us is our pastoral predilection for boys and girls, young men and women. This predilection will be evident in us, as it was in Don Bosco, in a real ‘passion’, seeking their good, giving all our energy, all our breath and strength for their welfare.” Fr Tito gave his life generously for the young, in fidelity to the vocation he received.