Charles A. Marsden, O.S.A.

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1845 – 1877 (September 23)

Charles Augustine Marsden, one of three brothers who were members of the American Province, was born in Clitheroe, England, on September 29, 1845, the son of Laurence Marsden and Helen Duckett. In 1858, at the age of 12 he emigrated with his mother, brothers and sister to the United States, and settled at Lansingburgh, New York. Charles entered the seminary in Lansingburgh under the Christian Brothers, and completing his course there, entered Villanova College in 1865, the year that Villanova re-opened with regular classes after a suspension of more than 7 years.    He was admitted to the novitiate on January 5, 1866 and was simply professed on January 19, 1867,  and solemnly professed on January 20, 1870. He was ordained to the priesthood on January 30, 1870 by Bishop Becker of Wilmington, Deleware, at Saint Augustine’s Church, Philadelphia, and was naturalized the following October. 

Father Charles Marsden taught rhetoric at Villanova from 1870 to 1875. When the Dramatic Society was begun on campus in November, 1870, he was its president. He was a popular preacher and lecturer both on and off campus, and authored a serial in the Catholic Standard of Philadelphia – Ben Sterne a story of modern times, which ran from March to July, 1874. In August, 1875, he was assigned to Saint Mary’s, Lawrence, as assistant to Father John P. Gilmore, O.S.A., and was put in charge of the Methuen mission. 

On Christmas, 1876, the first masses were celebrated in the town hall of Methuen. The three Marsden brothers, Charles, John and William celebrated together the Solemn High Mass that morning. The following September, Father Charles was taken suddenly ill. The doctor who was called did not consider the case serious and left him rather comfortable. The following day his illness gradually increased and in the evening the attending physicians decided that he was past all hope of recovery. Father Gilmore was informed and he related the news to Father Marsden who was perfectly resigned, asking that the last rites be administered to him. At 5:30, Sunday morning, the 23rd of September, while fully alert, he died at the age of 32. As a sign of respect, no sermons were preached or music played in any of the Catholic churches in Lawrence on that Sunday.

The funeral took place on Wednesday, September 26th. The church was filled with hundreds waiting outside. 70 members of the clergy were present, including Bishop Galberry of Hartford. Father Delahunty of Boston Highlands was celebrant. After Mass Rev. Richard J. Barry of West Roxbury, preached the funeral oration. Bishop Galberry gave the absolution. Burial took place in the Augustinian Plot of Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Lawrence.

A parishioner of Saint Mary’s described Father Charles as universally endeared to all who knew him, gentle, lively and vivacious, courteous and genial. In his eulogy, Father Barry suggested that “all who knew him will bear witness to the single heartedness and disinterestedness of his zeal; all will testify to the willingness and readiness with which he performed a good work. He was indeed a faithful servant of God; a true priest of Jesus Christ; a devoted follower of his chief, the great St. Augustine.”