Father Celestine Roddan, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1887-1947)

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John Roddan was born on May 12, 1887 in Randolph, Massachusetts. He was the son of John Roddan and Ellen Sullivan. He attended public school. For a time he worked as a clerk in the Brown-Durwell wholesale drygoods house in Boston. At the same time he contemplated religious life under the guidance of Redemptorist Father Kenzel who wrote the popular Passion Play called Pilate’s Daughter. In 1909 John Roddan entered the Passionist Preparatory Seminary at St. Mary’s Monastery, Dunkirk, New York. After novitiate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania he professed his vows on March 24, 1911 and received the name Celestine. He was ordained a priest on May 16, 1918.

After ordination he was assigned as Vice-Master where he expressed an interest in China through the Maryknoll publication The Field Afar and the Life of Theophane Venard. It was common that during the reading time at meals that books on China were read to the monks as they ate in silence. The Provincial Chapter of 1920 was held in Pittsburgh. At the end of the Chapter Father Alfred Cagney announced that the Passionists were to open a mission in China and that Father Stanislaus Grennan, Master of Novices, had been key to the decision. However, Father Grennan stated that it was Father Roddan who was a constant inspiration for the mission. Father Roddan then volunteered for China as a member of the first band of missionaries and was chosen to be the superior. They departed for China from San Francisco on Christmas Eve 1921. The first years were intense. Travel and language were difficult. Health was always a problem as were bandits. Without any training Father Roddan made decisions but the process proved too much and he was sent to be mission procurator in Hankow, China. This proved to be a good fit. However, in the interior he came down with malaria and faced nervous exhaustion. In 1927 the procuration moved from Hankow to Shanghai and in 1928 the Shanghai procuration was closed. Father Roddan went to Peking to rest but instead of returning to Hankow he returned to the United States a broken man in health and spirit. Neurosis set in. He lived in Riverdale, New York, Baltimore, Maryland, Scranton, Pennsylvania and Jamaica, New York. By 1933 he was able to function with some peace in public ministry. Some time later he hurt himself in a fall. As time went on his health became weaker and he died in 1947.

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