The report for the year to December 31, 2019, was published at the end of October 2020 and showed that the Diocese ordained a record number of priests and deacons, made a successful bid for a new Catholic primary school in Peterborough and 70% of parishes started projects funded under the Alive in Faith appeal.
The annual report outlines that the key aims of the Diocese are to further the progress of the Diocese by increasing the number of clergy able to support the Catholic population of East Anglia, increasing the number of children able to access Catholic education and reaching out to the wider community, particularly the marginalised and vulnerable.
Significant charitable activities undertaken to achieve these objectives include:
The total Catholic population of East Anglia now stands at an estimated 108,000. First Holy Communions remained stable at 1,051 (1,050 in 2018) as did Confirmations at 405 (396 in 2018). There was a decrease in baptisms from 1,005 in 2018 to 807 in 2019 and a fall in marriages from 242 to 197. Sunday Mass attendance is counted each September/ October and was 22,975 which was a drop of 985 compared with 23,960 in 2018. This represents an average attendance rate of 22%.
At the end of 2019, the Diocese had 73 active priests, 24 active permanent deacons, five seminarians and 72 curia and parish employees (of which 14 were employed in the Diocesan curia).
The total income of the Diocese increased from £6.98m to £7.48m during the year. Total expenditure for the Diocese increased also, from £6.74m in 2018 to £7.33m in 2019. Costs of raising funds have decreased from £0.25m in 2018 to £0.23m in 2019. The Diocese’s investment properties were revalued as at the year end with an increase to the valuation of £0.73m (2018 increase: £1.34m)
The activities of the Diocese are largely undertaken through its parishes. Of the overall diocesan finances, parishes account for over 71% (2018: 78%) of income and approximately 68% (2018: 58%) of expenditure with some 65% (2018: 69%) of the Diocesan charity’s net assets being held at parochial level.
The main expenditure headings are provision of worship (£2,237,529), clergy and parish support (£3,736,374), pastoral care and community support (£450,550) and schools programme (£677,782).
The main sources of income are donations, legacies and grants (£6,246,975), charitable activities (£280,986), income from other trading activities (£498,972) and investments (£451,490).
Future finances and Covid-19
To address an overspend on unrestricted funds, the Diocesan Trustees agreed that central Diocesan budgets for 2020 should be reduced by 10%. The medium-term financial strategy depends on increases in offertory collections to balance the budget over the medium term.
There was a reduction in the real value of offertory collections and work to increase income levels has begun and will develop further during 2020 and 2021. Nine parishes are now able to receive donations via their websites and two large parishes have been piloting contactless payments. The Diocese has appointed a Stewardship and Fundraising Coordinator to work with parishes who will start in 2021.
In view of the developing Covid-19 situation, it was decided to close the Diocesan offices in March 2020 for the period of lockdown, with staff working from home. Parish employees were placed on furlough leave, as were two employees working across the Diocese. The government twice instructed all places of worship to shut completely or partly. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on parish offertory has been assessed and further work on the budget to cope with this unprecedented situation is ongoing. This has resulted in revised budgets for 2021 and new projections for future years.
Pictured above, are Bishop Alan Hopes and Professor John Morrill with the three men in formation to become Permanent Deacons, Derek Williams (second left), Paul Raynes (second right), Gianluca Savini (right). Picture by Zyg Rakowicz