CTS author, Very Rev. Canon John Redford, passed away on Wednesday, 6 November, 2013 from pancreatic cancer. Fr. John was Director of the MA Apologetics course at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, an international Catholic distance-learning college for catechesis, theology, philosophy, and religious education. He has written several books including What Catholics Believe first published by the Catholic Truth Society in 1981. This popular booklet has never been out of print and in the past twenty years alone has sold more than 40,000 copies.
It is impossible to say just how many people Fr. John has positively influenced through his catechesis, but it seems that even in his daily life, he impacted the strangers he met. One blogger, who randomly met him in the hospital earlier this year, said,
‘There was something about this man, the way he spoke and what he was saying that made me pay attention, and instinctively I knew here was a fellow I could get on with.’
At that time Fr. John was in the hospital for an exploratory procedure to determine if his pancreatic cancer was operable. As he explained the situation to this blogger ‘he was quite accepting of his possible fate, saying that he was 76, he had a good life and that if it was his time then so be it.’
His work at Maryvale meant he had the privilege to impact the lives of many of its students. One such student, Mark Lambert, posted on his blog following ‘Redford Day,’ a celebration early in the year of Fr. John’s life. In it he said, ‘I came to know him very well and I feel he has been a true spiritual father to me. I know that might sound crazy, but
he has this way about him, ever proper, never inappropriate, never condescending, always concerned.
He is a raconteur of epic proportions and the teller of some of the best Catholic stories I have heard, the sort of person you could listen to all night, as he tells you of his adventures, people he has met and places he has been.’
Fr. John supplemented his considerate approach to pastoral catechesis with his thorough theological knowledge. Fr. Tim Finigan, priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark and the blogger behind The Hermeneutic of Continuity, noted that Fr. John’s ‘firm and outspoken orthodoxy was not universally welcomed in the 1970s but his expertise in the scriptures could not but be respected. He has helped many students over the years to find their way out of the confusion of reductive biblical criticism and to love the word of God.’
Fellow CTS author, Deacon Nick Donnelly of the Diocese of Lancaster, offered this reflection for CTS: ‘I’ve known Fr. John for over 40 years, first meeting him when I was a schoolboy and he was a curate at Holy Cross parish, Carshalton, and latterly as a colleague at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. His greatest influence on my life has been his example as a priest and catechist who preached and taught with the mind of the Church. His life’s work and guidance showed me the creativity and fulfillment that comes from having a Catholic understanding of the relationship between Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.
God bless you Fr. John.’
CTS’ General Secretary, Fergal Martin, spoke of Fr. John as ‘one of the nicest and easiest people to work with. Terribly committed to the Gospel and to evangelisation. He made a huge contribution to CTS.’
In his CTS booklet What Catholics Believe, Fr. John wrote of the Eucharist: During Mass ‘Christ becomes present to us as our food and as our drink; without himself of course suffering in any way, since his sufferings ended on the Cross when he offered his life finally to the Father in sacrifice: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”’
Fr. John was a man dedicated to witnessing to the truth of the Gospel both in catechesis and active pastoral care. His acceptance of his illness and firm commitment to faith in the midst of his suffering reflects Christ’s acceptance to ‘commend [his] spirit’ into the hands of the Father. We pray for Fr. John’s soul and commend him to the intercession of our Blessed Mother.
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