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Rejoice but difficult decisions ahead, says Bishop

We can rejoice in how the Diocesan family is progressing, Bishop Peter Collins says in his introduction to the annual report of the Diocesan Trustees, but warns “There will be difficult decisions ahead” as we address our “shared and fundamental duty of evangelisation” in a tough economic climate.  Rev Paul Raynes, Director of Operations and Finance, reports.

Writing on the anniversary of the announcement of his appointment, the Bishop celebrated rising Mass attendance and increasing participation in the Sacraments during 2022, and said the trend had gained momentum recently. The number of Sunday worshippers in the diocese rose by 30 per cent, while the number of children making their First Holy Communion in 2022 was higher than before the Covid pandemic affected the Church. Baptisms, confirmations, marriages and receptions into the church all increased year-on-year. Vocations also prospered, with three new deacons ordained and 12 Diocesan students in training for the priesthood or permanent diaconate in the course of the year.

The annual report highlights the diversity and dynamism of the Diocese, anchored in its huge and varied geography. The growing population of urban centres such as Cambridge and Peterborough has brought ethnic and cultural variety to our churches and to pilgrimage centres such as Walsingham. The Trustees’ report claims that “The Diocese of East Anglia is one of the most inclusive organisations in Britain. And that is, of course its mission.”

East Anglia’s 52 parishes mobilised 1,900 volunteers, according to the report. Their work included supporting nine foodbanks and ten Alive in Faith parish projects. The Diocese is also the guardian of an important element of the area’s heritage and history, with 42 listed buildings among its churches and presbyteries, including three Grade 1 listed treasures. Its 27 schools nurture over 10,000 children in a Catholic ethos. The school population is also considerably more ethnically and socially diverse than the average.

Despite this picture of growth and flourishing, Bishop Peter nevertheless warns that: “Many challenges remain as we face the future, not least in the financial arena.” The Trustee report opens up the Diocese’s books and reveals the seriousness of the financial position. Although the offerings of the faithful at Mass are now back to their pre-Covid levels, inflation means that money is worth nearly a third less than it was.

The Diocese is running at an operating loss. Although the financial results are flattered by a revaluation of some properties, “The funding gap between income and expenditure… remains a cause for concern,” in the Bishop’s words. The Trustees state in their report that they are committed to a deficit reduction plan which “will undoubtedly require some difficult decisions to be taken”.

The Trustee report also contains a warm tribute by Bishop Peter to Bishop Alan and his legacy. Refusing to take credit for more than two weeks of the year the document covers, he thanks Bishop Alan for “wise and fruitful leadership”, as well as expressing “sincere gratitude” to the members of the Diocesan Board of Trustees.

Click here to read the RCDEA Report to the Trustees 2022.

Click here to read the RCDEA Annual Report and Financial Statement 2022.