Diocese makes good progress in its key aims says ARA

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Diocese makes good progress in its key aims says ARA

The Annual Report and Accounts of the Diocese of East Anglia have just been published online and show that, in 2019, it made good progress towards its key aims focused on spreading the Catholic faith, while also showing a small excess of income over expenditure. Keith Morris reports.


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.

Key achievements

Significant charitable activities undertaken to achieve these objectives include:

  • The continued maintenance and improvement of places of worship and other parish facilities
  • Continued recruitment, education and training of priests and deacons, which resulted in the ordination of seven priests, one deacon and three permanent deacons during 2019, a record year for this Diocese. A further two priests and two permanent deacons were ordained during 2020.
  • Encouraging local communities to make use of parish facilities
  • Participation in community life through our Catholic schools including support of religious education, leadership and management in our schools
  • A successful bid to the Department for Education to establish a new primary school in Peterborough and the opening in September 2019 of a voluntary aided primary school in Norfolk
  • Administering school building programmes and providing advice to school governors.
  • 70% of our parishes have now started to draw down funding for projects established as a result of the Alive in Faith appeal. These range in scope from refurbishment and repairs for church buildings, to installation of photovoltaic panels in schools, to supporting our young people and the elderly, to helping the homeless or to support family life. The total amount pledged to Alive in Faith stands at over £6.3 million.
  • The support of a growing number of retired clergy (currently 22)

Statistics

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).

Finances

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.

Click here to read the full Annual Report and Accounts for 2019.

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

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