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Diocese of East Anglia’s first priest marks 40 years

The very first priest to be ordained in the newly-formed Diocese of East Anglia, 40 years ago, has celebrated his own 40th anniversary of ordination with a One Mass Sunday at Most Holy Trinity in Diss.

At his ordination in 1976, Bishop Alan Clark called Fr David Bagstaff "the Benjamin": the youngest priest in the new Diocese of East Anglia. And on July 10, Fr David celebrated both anniversaries in Diss where he has been parish priest for the past two years.

The Gospel reading that day, the story of the Good Samaritan, was, said Fr David, a profound and simple proclamation of good news that cut to the heart: no-one listening, then or now, could fail to understand the challenge it presented: to reach out in love and service to all, especially those most in need, and those we didn’t want naturally to connect with. Everyone is a child of God, he said.

Fr David began his ministry as assistant priest at St Peter and All Souls, Peterborough; he then moved to St John’s Cathedral, Norwich as assistant priest; on to St Mary’s, Woodbridge Road, Ipswich, and back to Peterborough as parish priest. Sacred Heart, North Walsham, with Aylsham and Wroxham, was his next parish, until two years ago when he moved to Diss. Priests and parishioners from his former parishes joined in the celebrations.

Describing the unique relationship between a Catholic priest and his parishioners, Fr David said: "It is the love that the priest receives daily from the people of the parish that enables him to give love, to be alongside, to lead, to listen, and to reach out together in love and service. As priests we’re very fortunate that they are very tolerant of our eccentricities and forgive our mistakes!"

"In this celebration today, I give thanks to God for his grace, without which we can do nothing. I’m offering thanks, together with you, for 40 years and for the hundreds of thousands of people I’ve connected with and walked alongside. It’s a great day for thanksgiving."

Pictured above is Fr David Bagstaff (centre) cutting his anniversary cake surrounded by fellow priests.