As Fr Martin left to return to what is now “The Congregation of St Gregory” in the grounds of Buckfast Abbey in Devon, the gathering also recorded the end of over 100 years of service by the Benedictines to Bungay and Beccles, the neighbouring towns on the River Waveney. The monks of Downside Abbey, faced with falling vocations, have had to give up their commitment to provide priests for their “mission” to the area where once they hoped to establish a priory – hence the “Minster” in our title.
Our catering team pulled out all the stops to produce an amazing selection of goodies to tide us over after 10.30am Mass, and it gave a chance for people to tell Fr Martin how much he was appreciated. One attendee said: “It was a joyful event which brought the parish together to thank Fr Martin for the dedicated service he has given to our parish for over ten years. The respect in which he is held, really shone through.“
Our beautiful, 120-year-old church, the more modern presbytery (actually a rather tired 1970s bungalow, about to be renovated!) and the mature graveyard, are now being transferred to the Diocese of East Anglia, and we will have to get used to a different way of running our parish. Truth to tell, we have been using the skills and advice of many of the Diocesan experts, and are already working to many Diocesan procedures, but it is bound to be different when the “boss and his assistants” are just 20, rather than 200, miles away; certainly, the financial implications are quite significant.
We do have some interim difficulty, in terms of the spiritual aspects of the change, as we have found that Bishop Alan just does not have enough priests to go round. It really brings it home, that we ALL need to pray for vocations, when we find we have an active and viable parish, but our Bishop has no priest to lead us!
For the immediate future, we will manage, thanks to Fr Mike Brookes from St Edmunds, Bungay, who has agreed to give us administrative and spiritual support, spending one full day per week in Beccles. Fortunately, Fr Stephen Bould and Canon David Paul have agreed to come out of retirement (partly, at least) so that we will be able to have two Masses each Sunday.
There will certainly be a need for all parishioners to take on additional tasks and shoulder greater responsibility for our own spiritual and social well-being, at least for the immediate future.
Who knows, it might even be the stimulus for a new era, with even greater levels of parochial activity, participation and enthusiasm!
Pictured above is Fr Martin celebrating his final Sunday Mass at St Benet’s Minster, Beccles