The Southern Cross : May 2012
May 2012 Page 21 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross Fr Michael Rodger Born August 24, 1935 Died March 16, 2012 obituaries | A man of faith and joy Michael spent his early years at Echunga before moving with his family to Angas Road, Westbourne Park, which remained the family home until 1975. Being a family of five boys and four girls, there were many instances of escapades around Colonel Light Gardens, Sleeps Hill and Brown Hill Creek. Michael went to Saint Therese's Primary School at Colonel Light Gardens and then to Christian Brothers' College, where he excelled in gymnastics and rifle-shooting in the school cadets. He showed an interest in becoming a priest when he was as young as seven or eight and commenced priestly studies at St Francis Xavier's Seminary. After completing his studies at St Patrick's College at Manly, New South Wales, he was ordained in St Francis Xavier's Cathedral on March 8 1958. His first appointment was to Elizabeth South as an assistant priest to Fr Bowler. During that time he became the owner of a blue budgie but found his life too busy to properly care for it. He donated the bird to the parish school fete, only to win it back in the fete's raffle. As well as his appointments to many parishes he was also Catholic chaplain to the RAAF and the Army Reserves. On his days off, Michael always looked forward to his mum's roast dinners followed by apple pie and ice cream. After his parents died, he then enjoyed his Monday evening meals and happy hours with his sister Judy and her husband Peter. Fishing was a favourite past-time handed down from his dad to Michael and his brothers and sisters who have fond memories of holidays at Coffin Bay and Stansbury. Fr Rodger's life was a rich tapestry of interests which included overseas trips, golf, spear fishing, caravanning, the Australian bush, the River Murray and various styles of music. Football was his passion, supporting the Double Blues and the Crows. Many a night he would replay his video tapes of the Crows' grand finals and then phone his brother Chris just to let him know that "they had won again". Family and extended family were a very important part of Fr Rodger's life. One of his last requests was that his siblings and in-laws should gather with him for a wake at his home. Sr Veronica Slattery arranged a prayer service and a beautiful evening meal. In his homily at the funeral Mass, Archbishop Philip Wilson spoke of Fr Rodger's joy at being a member of the Church, his calling to the priesthood and his relationship with the people he served in many parishes. "Today we bury a man of faith, a really good priest who loved the priesthood, loved the Church, loved God's people and gave everything of his life to care for them," he said. An audio file of Archbishop Wilson's homily is available at www.adelaide.catholic.org.au Born in Melbourne in 1924, Charles McKean Howard was the first of three boys born to Mollie and Charlie. Charles often spoke of his parents as role models through their involvement in parish, school, St Vincent de Paul, their friendships and loyalty to people which embedded values in him. Charles was educated by the Good Samaritan Sisters in Thornbury, Melbourne. Mollie was an avid Fitzroy supporter and so Charles and his brother Jim accompanied her to many matches at the local footy ground. The family moved to Sydney in 1937 and Charles began high school at Marist College Randwick. Both he and Jim were in the school's boxing squad with Charles showing enough talent to win through to the finals. Charles was 14 when he went to the Marist Brothers Juniorate at Mittagong. In recent years he reflected on how hard that must have been for his parents, particularly his mother, and he questioned the wisdom of boys leaving their families at such a young age. Known in his early years as Br Elias, Charles was referred to as "the boy" by his students at Sacred Heart College in Adelaide as he took up his duties there in 1945. He had just turned 21! Within a short time his gift for leadership became evident. He ministered in various schools and in the juniorate at Mittagong, excelling through his intelligence and pedagogical know- how. In 1961 he was sent to France to complete his religious formation. Returning to Australia, he was appointed headmaster of St Joseph's College, Sydney. Br Charles proved to be a good leader with serenity, consultation, humour and compassion. In 1968 he pursued studies in catechetics at Louvain, Belgium, followed by further studies in psychology in Dublin. In 1972, at 48 years of age, Br Charles was appointed Provincial. This gave him the chance to visit the Marist world and he was touched by issues and implications arising from the call to social justice. He was a writer and lecturer on topics as varied as religious life and its future, justice and peace, vocations and the essential role of lay men and women in the Church. At the General Chapter of 1985, Br Charles was elected Superior General. Major undertakings during his mandate included the creation of the International Finance commission, the new Marist presence in Eastern Europe and the establishment of international scholasticates for Africa and Asia. Br Charles visited the Brothers in China and after his Generalate was over he spent years in two novitiates in Kutama (Africa) and Lomeri (Pacific). When his memory started to fail, he came back to his Province and lived in different communities. Finally, he went to Campbelltown where he received medical care until his death. The man who coined the expression To be Champagnat today is described by the current Superior General, Br Emili Turu, as "a heartfelt Marist, a truly genuine son of Champagnat". Former Superior General Br Sean Sammon said Charles "strode across the landscape of life with boldness, courage, daring; he had formidable talents and was gifted by God in so many ways". "But in the end he was always Charles, a man of unusual faith, a person in whom you could confide, someone who listened well, was loyal to friends, enjoyed a drink and a conversation, understood human weakness, helped you to believe in yourself and challenged us all to take some responsibility for the human community," he said. Archbishop Philip Wilson, a student at St Joseph's College during Br Charles' term as Headmaster, said one of the enduring experiences of meeting Br Elias or Br Charles Howard was that he always remembered your name. "Not only did he remember your name, he remembered your mother's and father's name and your brother and sister's names and everything that happened in the family since the last time that you had met. It was the most extraordinary experience to meet this man as a young person and to be able to know him as one went through life and to live and experience that real care that he exercised in the lives of so many." Archbishop Wilson presided at the funeral Mass of Br Charles in January. His homily can be found at www.adelaide.catholic.org.au A heartfelt Marist Br Charles McKean Howard Born October 19, 1924 Died January 14, 2012 Father Michael Rodger (left) with his family.