Father Robert J. Roche, O.S.B., a monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, died Thursday, December 20, 2012, at the Archabbey. He was 93. Until he returned to the Archabbey in 2009, Father Robert spent the past two decades serving parishes in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, including Saint George Parish, Patton (1989-1996) and Queen of Peace Parish, Patton, formerly Our Lady of Perpetual Help (1996-2009).
The son of the late James Joseph and Clara Josephine (Holmes) Roche, he was born in Medford, Massachusetts on October 16, 1919. He was one of thirteen children. His living siblings include Mary Elizabeth Lehmann of Flushing, Long Island, New York; William Anthony Roche of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Sister Catherine Theresa Roche, O.P., of Dominican Convent, Glendale, N.Y.; Ann Claire Mascola of Carle Place, Long Island, N.Y. He was preceded in death by Patricia Frances Secker, John James, Edward Patrick, Thomas Richard, Richard Joseph and Walter Patrick Roche; and Walter and Marion Roche, who died as infants.
He attended the parochial schools of Boston, Massachusetts and Brooklyn. He also attended Saint Joseph’s Juniorate in Peabody, Massachusetts, a preparatory school for the Xaverian Brothers, an order of teaching brothers.
After high school he went to the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Old Point Comfort, Virginia, and pronounced religious vows in the Xaverian Congregation in 1940. From there he went to Xaverian College, an affiliate of Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he graduated with a bachelor of science in biology in 1943. Later he earned his master of science in biology in 1952, also from Catholic University. Further studies in education were pursued at Saint John’s University in Brooklyn, N.Y. (1951-1953).
He began in 1943 to teach in Saint John’s High School, Worcester, Massachusetts, until 1947when he began teaching at Saint John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Massachusetts at which time he moved to Mount Saint Joseph’s High School in Baltimore, Maryland.
In 1956 the then-Brother Harold, C.F.X., began the process of incardination to the Benedictine Community at Saint Vincent Archabbey where he took the religious name of Robert, and began studies for the priesthood. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 2, 1962. While a seminarian he was able to teach in the Biology Department of Saint Vincent College. He taught general biology and microbiology to the Saint Vincent students and also microbiology and anatomy to the nurses in training for the Latrobe Hospital until 1968. During his teaching time at Saint Vincent he wrote laboratory manuals in general biology and microbiology for use at Saint Vincent College. Other duties at Saint Vincent included: food service director (1960-1966); dormitory supervisor; dean of students (1966-1967). From there he was assigned to Penn State University as one of four Benedictine Catholic chaplains. In 1968 he served as parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Jeannette.
In 1969 Archabbot Egbert Donovan, O.S.B., assigned Father Robert to assist at Wimmer Priory and teach at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan. He taught there in the Biology Department until 1985, a period of sixteen years. For his last two years at Wimmer Priory he served as prior. While Father Robert was in Taiwan he became a retreat master for many of the English speaking religious communities. He also gave retreats in Kowloon, China, and Manila, Philippines. When in Taiwan he was a chaplain to the Filipino community, in the Cursillo Movement and in the Knights of Columbus. He received his Knights of Columbus 4th degree in the Phillippines at Manila.
After Father Robert returned to Saint Vincent he was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish and Saint Marys, and Saint Mary’s Parish in Saint Marys, Elk County. In 1989 Father Robert was appointed pastor of Saint George Parish in Patton, where he remained until 1996 when he was assigned to Queen of Peace Parish, Patton. He was active in the Knights of Columbus and adult religious education.
The body will be received at the Elizabeth J. Roderick Center of Saint Vincent Archabbey at 2 p.m. Sunday, December 23, with viewing to follow in the parlor of the Roderick Center until 7 p.m. The body will be transferred to the Archabbey Basilica for a vigil service at 7:15 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., at 10 a.m. on Monday, December 24, in the Archabbey Basilica. Interment will follow in the Saint Vincent Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Benedictine Health and Welfare Fund, c/o Saint Vincent College, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650.