Downside monks to leave Bungay after 350 years

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Downside monks to leave Bungay after 350 years

More than 350 years of Benedictine association with the parish of Bungay in Suffolk will come to an end this summer. Mary Kirk reports.

The Abbot of Downside, whose monks have served Bungay and nearby Beccles for many years, has informed the Bishop of East Anglia that when the present incumbent, Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard, retires in August they will not be able to find any monk from the English Benedictine Congregation to replace him.

Fr Charles, who has now passed his 80th birthday, thanked Bishop Alan for coming to speak to the parish in Bungay in June. The Bishop urged the parish to be ready for a new mission, bringing people to God, working hard for families. “You cannot do as you have always done,” he said.

The Waveney Valley area of Suffolk and Norfolk is the setting of one of the oldest post-Reformation Catholic missions in England, as the first Benedictine priest (William Walgrave, of St Gregory’s) arrived at nearby Flixton Hall in 1657, and the line of service has been unbroken since, with a Catholic church first being built in Bungay in 1823.

The Abbot, Dom Nicholas Wetz, said: “It was with a heavy heart that the Chapter of Downside Abbey recently decided to pass the ownership and administration of the parishes of Bungay and Beccles to the Diocese of East Anglia…recognising our diminishing numbers at Downside and our inability to serve the parishes in future.”

Dom Martin Gowman, parish priest of Beccles, will continue to work in the diocese as a Benedictine.

Pictured above is St Edmund’s church in Bungay