Professor of Patrology and Liturgy

Born in Senglea son of Joseph and Amelia née Relf, John Theuma was the third among the 10 siblings. His father Joseph was born in Floriana, his mother Amelia, though born in Senglea was the daughter of George Relf, of British origin. John Theuma spent all his childhood and youth in Senglea, and as he grew up, he started listening to God’s voice calling him to serve Him more closely through Holy Orders.

He attended the Freres and the Lyceum, he spent seven years of spiritual formation at the Seminary and academic studies at the RUM, from where he graduated BA, JCD, BLCan, and Lic S Script.

On 29 July 1934 was ordained priest by Archbishop Dom Mauro Caruana, OSB at the Mdina Cathedral. In December 1934 he was appointed member of the Senglea Collegiate Chapter.

As he achieved first place in his academic course at the UM, Rev Theuma obtained a scholarship from the government through which he could continue his studies, and he attended the Pontificio Instituto Biblico where he obtained a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture.

After completing his studies Can Theuma undertook pastoral work at the Senglea parish. In 1937, after a call for applications, he applied to become professor of Maltese, but it was Ġuże Aquilina who became the first Professor of Maltese and Oriental Languages. Can Theuma Relf was then selected as Professor of Patrology, Liturgy and Christian Archeology.

A very brief information about this young priest was given by the Archpriest of Senglea, Emmnauele Brincat in his book: Senglea During the Second Great War 1940-1944: ‘Can. John Theuma was a young priest and member of the collegiate chapter of Senglea. He was a professor of Liturgy at the UM. With his two sisters, he had been evacuated to Balzan when Italy declared war on England and Malta. He worked hard in the parish where he was evacuated, ministering to the people of the place and brother-evacuees alike. He came to Senglea for a rest, attracted with the idea of finding good shelters and by his affection to his birth-place. He was staying in the cellar of his house in Victory Street, with members of his family when the air-raid was on, (on 16 January 1941). When the alarm was given, he had gone down into the cellar of the house with his sisters and with two nieces to take cover. He never came out alive again. Theuma was buried there with his sisters and nieces.’

The premature death of Theuma stopped him from continuing to give his contribution to the liturgical and pastoral work among the Sengleans and the local church.

This biography is part of the collection created by Michael Schiavone over a 30-year period. Read more about Schiavone and his initiative here.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us