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Canon discusses 47-year priest career on BBC Suffolk

Vicar General of the Diocese of East Anglia and former apostolic administrator, Canon David Bagstaff, talked to BBC Radio Suffolk on Sunday August 13 about his 47-year career as a priest and his journey of faith.

In the recent interview on BBC Radio Suffolk’s “A Journey of Faith” segment, Canon David candidly discussed his calling, the varied experiences of different parishes, and his upcoming move.

Canon David began by talking about the beginnings of his faith: “Well I was brought up in Cambridge. My family, Mum and Dad, and brother; we were all Catholics, and we went to Mass every Sunday at the Church of Our Lady in English Martyrs. So, from my earliest days, I always remember faith being a part of my life really.”

This prompted a question about how faith becomes personal, he said: “You have to make it your own in the end because you go through challenges of life, and ups and downs, and that faith has got to become something which is not just the wallpaper but it’s something real to you and takes you through.”

Discussing his early call to the priesthood, Canon David reflected: “Sure, well, being at the Catholic school and being involved in the parish life as a young person, I was an altar server at the church in English Martyrs, Cambridge, and I saw the witness that priests gave really, the good life they lived, the work they were doing in schools, in hospitals, visiting the sick, taking services, being there for people, and I think it sort of inspired me.”

He then delved into the challenges of becoming a priest at a young age and how the approach to priesthood may vary with age: “Sometimes people more naturally connect with someone who’s a bit younger, who has a different perspective on something. So I think human experience is important, but also there’s more than just human experience. You’re looking for someone who can be compassionate, who can walk with you when you’re going through a dark time, and sometimes a younger person might be able to do that better than older person who’s done other things in life before becoming a priest.”

Canon David then detailed the complexity of moving from parish to parish: “I’ve worked in most parts of the diocese now. I’ve worked in Peterborough, which is very different from Suffolk and to Ipswich and Bury, but a great challenge. I really enjoyed it there. I worked in Ipswich some years ago. I’ve worked in North Norfolk up on the North Walsham part of Norfolk, in Norwich, and in Bury St. Edmunds. And now, as you say, I’m about to declutter again and pack my bags and move to Aldeburgh about the third week of September. So each place brings a different challenge.”

Canon David then spoke about working together with other churches: “I’ve really thoroughly enjoyed it, and it’s great working with other churches as well. Because although I’m a Catholic, we work with other Christian churches, like here in Bury. I’ve worked with the cathedral here in Bury, and other local churches, so that’s always a great thing as well, working together rather than in competition.”

The conversation with Canon David Bagstaff provides a rare and inspiring glimpse into the life of a dedicated servant of the Church. His journey reflects the universal call of a priest to compassion, understanding and faith.

Listen here, the interview starts at 41.00.