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Obituary: Canon Rodney Marshall

04 January 2019

The Archdeacon of Pontefract writes:

A MANCHESTER Catholic priest to the core, Canon Rodney Henry Marshall, who died on 11 December, aged 72, learnt the faith at the Anglo-Papalist shrine of St Benedict’s, Ardwick.

Prepared for the priesthood at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, under the principalship of Bishop David Hope, and of which he was very proud, Fr Rodney was ordained in Manchester Cathedral and served curacies in the parishes of Our Lady and St Thomas, Gorton, and then at Bedford Leigh. It was later, however, while he was Vicar of Goldthorpe, in the diocese of Sheffield, that he attained almost royal status because of the selfless work he did there during the miners’ strike, and the way in which he acted as a reconciler bringing a divided and hurting community together.

A Christian socialist in the mould of Fr Joe Williamson and others, “Red Rod” was focused on the altar, his prayers, and service to his people. As a parish priest in Athersley, Barnsley, for 20 years, the church was always open, and he was particularly grateful for the Romero Centre and the work that it continues to do alongside those on the margins of society in that town.

Wide and generous in his sympathies and judgements, Rodney was delighted to be made an Honorary Canon of Wakefield Cathedral in 2007. A self-effacing priest, he was particularly moved to be asked to help to lead a priests’ retreat earlier this year at Walsingham, a place he loved. Being a Catholic priest was, for him, not about gin and lace (although he enjoyed them both, his large hands nursing a whisky glass), but about giving people a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

Rodney’s ministry was greatly enhanced by his wife, Marilyn, who died two years ago this month, and not long after the death of their daughter-in-law Philippa. He loved his family and especially their grandchildren, Freya and Isaac.

When he was diagnosed with bowel cancer in November, he was characteristically at peace, and made all the preparations for his funeral which was held at St Helen’s, Athersley, on 21 December.

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