Anglican Catholic Church

Fr Roger Bell - an obituary

Roger Bell, Priest
24th July 1942 - 25th December 2020

This is a piece of writing I had hoped would come easily to me having known Roger for over seventy years, that really is a lifetime of knowledge and experiences to try and condense and still make his life meaningful to those who didn't know him so well.

Let’s go back to the late 1940's to the Tonge Moor district of Bolton where we both lived not as neighbours but near enough to be part of the same group of lads that met up and played together. Every member of our group was brought up to attend St Augustine's Church, Tonge Moor-the best known Anglo Catholic Church in the Northern Province of York - with a staff of four priests all C M P members and three sisters from the Community of All Saints - we attended a power house of prayer, devotion and religious fervour. Cubs, scouts, guides, brownies, altar servers, choristers, youth club members, men's guild, tennis club and of course the Mothers' Union. St Augustine's had them all and Roger many many times used to reminisce and we'd agree how lucky we had been to have enjoyed St. Augustine's in what was its golden age - Masses packed and waiting lists to join the many organisations were commonplace.

As is usual when teens become twenties many move away from home in pursuit of professional qualifications or to just gain more experience of life in general. Roger made surveying his aim and he achieved good positions in various parts of the country Darlington in particular and he enjoyed visiting Peter Hurst in Durham City on my behalf. He could stop off in Darlington and visit friends he had made during his time there. I would meet up with him now and then during our middle age years and when eventually I returned to Bolton I saw a lot more of him-he had moved to Aughton near Ormskirk. I became aware that his wife Judith Alison had died in 2005 and that their son Christopher James was well and living at home. I know that during this time Roger was attending St Paul's, Croxteth and became a good friend of Fr. Brookes the parish priest. He accompanied Fr. Brookes on his pilgrimages to Walsingham and helped out with the young people from the Liverpool parish.

At the beginning of August 2014 Roger rang me to ask a favour. Would I please celebrate a Requiem Mass for his son Christopher who had died whilst on holiday in Norway. For some people losing a wife and son would test their faith if they had any to the limit and to breaking point, but Roger's faith was so well grounded and secure that it helped him through this heartbreaking time in his life. Some time later he expressed a wish to seek ordination. Like so many of us who had become disillusioned with the Church of England he looked to the ACC as a possible home in which to exercise an ordained ministry. Greatly thrilled by this I started to put the wheels in motion. He was ordained Deacon in April 2016 and ordained priest in June 2017 in All Souls Church in Bolton - where the mission parish is based. Roger loved All Souls and felt a great sense of occasion standing at the High Altar and celebrating Mass on Sunday mornings in this cathedral sized building.

Liz who has been his constant companion for many years nursed him through the dark and painful stages of his illness. They were to be married at All Souls on the 29th December after a civil ceremony the previous day. With deteriorating health I was called to the Hospice in Southport on Christmas Eve afternoon where a hurriedly arranged marriage took place. Both Fr. Johnson and I were witnesses. At the conclusion I was able to go into the bedroom and administer the Last Rites of Holy Church. There was a smile on his face and he attempted to join in some of the prayers. I left him dozing. He died on Christmas Day at 3:15 and Liz was with him.

A kind and generous person and a good conscientious priest who always made people feel welcome.

Requiescat in Pace dear friend of 70+ years and a beloved Curate.

Fr. H. J. Marsh
Our Lady & St Edward
Bolton.