Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Rest in Peace: Father John Rompa, 57 years a priest
the Inland Register
(From the Dec. 4, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Father John Rompa (IR file photo by Mitch Finley)
Father John C. Rompa, a priest of the Diocese of Spokane for 57 years, died Nov. 13, 2008 at the Hospice House of Spokane. He was 83 years old.
The funeral Mass for Father Rompa was concelebrated by Bishop Skylstad and the clergy of the diocese at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes on Monday evening, Nov. 17. Inurnment at Holy Cross Cemetery, Spokane, took place the next morning.
Born in Holland in 1925, John Rompa was the middle child of a family of 13 brothers and sisters.
In a 2005 Inland Register interview, he recalled with a laugh that “They kicked me out of the seminary (in Holland) twice. The first time, because I couldn’t learn languages – you had to learn five languages! – and the second time I got kicked out because of rebellion, which makes more sense to me!”
In 1947, he came to the United States to continue seminary education in preparation for ordination as a priest of the Diocese of Spokane. After the completion of studies at St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Wash., he was ordained a priest on May 19, 1951.
As a priest he served throughout the Diocese of Spokane. He was an assistant pastor at St. Anthony, Spokane; St. Mary of the Rosary, Chewelah; and St. Patrick Walla Walla, and was a chaplain at St. Ignatius Hospital, Colfax, and pastor of LaCrosse before he volunteered for missionary service in the Spokane Diocese’s mission in the Diocese of Sololá, Guatemala. He was welcomed back by the native people of the Guatemala communities when he returned for the 25th anniversary of the Mission in 1983. His missionary experience was a transformational time for his vision of church, the world and the priesthood.
He told the IR that his Guatemala experience “was a complete turning point in my life…. I was one of the pioneers. It was tough. I found it very tough.” With the guidance of veteran Maryknoll missioners there, however, he came to understand that “you don’t just follow the law all the time, and eventually I learned to do without the law, to be very honest about it!”
As a mission priest, “I did things down there that I never thought I would do. I started a radio station. It’s still working…. I pulled teeth and did work in the clinic…. All my theology, and all the things I learned as a priest I just threw out the window. It didn’t fit! … We were dealing with people in poverty….”
In 1969 he received the papal medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (“For the Church and for the Pontiff”) for his mission service.
After returning from Guatemala, he was the pastor at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Cheney, St. Anthony Parish in Spokane, St. Patrick Parish in Walla Walla, St. Charles Parish in Spokane, and St. Anne Parish, Medical Lake. After retirement he served in “senior status appointments” at St. Thomas More Parish in Spokane and as pastor at St. Ann Parish in Spokane.
“Generally, I have been very happy as a priest,” he told the IR. “There have been times when I got very disgusted and was ready to quit. But generally, no, I’ve been happy to be a priest. What I have enjoyed most is the people, interaction with people, trying to help them understand, help them, that kind of thing.”
Although officially retired in 1995, he continued to minister for many years as a priest. “I enjoy what I’m doing now,” he said in 2005. “I would have a hard time just sitting here, not doing anything. I enjoy being in contact with people, doing certain things, helping out, not having administration to do.”
His advice to new priests was basic and true: “All these things are good – prayer, meditation, keeping in contact with your fellow priests,” but, he added, “use your common sense.”
The last 10 days of his life he was cared for by Hospice House of Spokane. Special thanks to Dr. Leo Obermiller and his staff at Northwest Renal Service and to the Hospice House staff.
He was predeceased by his parents Walteruf and Anna Rompa in Holland, and brothers Jacque, Walter, and Rudolf, and sisters Ton and Miriam, and his very close friend and housekeeper Catherine Clark. He is survived by his sisters Jope in Brazil and Penny Rompa in Naples, Fla., and Ann in Holland and his brothers Fritz in Holland, Hans in Brazil, Jfess in Holland and William (Sherry) in Olympia, Wash., as well as numerous other extended family members. His special friend Barbara Pantzar walked the journey of his life with him in a special way these last months and for many years before.
Father Rompa requested that any memorials be given to Hospice of Spokane in his remembrance.