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St Helen, Hoveton
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They also had a good moan about the Bishop, something I experience again and again when visiting East Anglian Catholic churches at present. Bishop Michael has jumped in with both feet, and his consultation exercise Forward and Outward Together has put the future of outstations like this in doubt. This seems insane; East Anglia is one of the fastest growing Catholic dioceses in western Europe, with congregations on the up almost everywhere. However, the exercise is intended to address the impending rapid decline in the number of Priests in the Diocese. How silly. As far as I can see, the situation makes the case for married and women Priests stronger every time I think about it.
Simon Knott, April 2005
Postscript: In March 2006, I received a communication from Father Mark Hackeson, Private Secretary to the Bishop of East Anglia, Michael Evans. He writes: You state that the Bishop's Diocesan Pastoral Plan puts the future of outstations in doubt. Whilst this may be true of some such churches, it is clearly not true of St. Helen's, which as you yourself point out already has plans in place for an expansion. I must also admit to being somewhat upset by your attitude to the Diocesan policy as laid down in the Diocesan Pastoral Plan. Some of your comments, particularly those personal to the Bishop, seem to me to be rather ill-informed, to an extent that they are simply opinionated rather than objective. As you rightly point out, Diocesan policy (arrived at after extensive consultation with both laity and clergy) seeks to address the current shortage of priests. One of the principal aims is to ensure that every Catholic parish has its own Parish Priest and access to Sunday Mass. This has meant in some places looking at the possibility of closing or moving Mass centres to take account of population movement and growth, and also the greater mobility of most Catholics. Many of our Mass centres were established before most people had access to their own car (or a lift from fellow parishioners). However, in other places it involves looking at expanding present buildings (as at Hoveton, Poringland, St. Laurence's, Cambridge and elsewhere), or replacing them with new, larger churches (as at Diss, St. Boniface, Hellesdon, Norwich and elsewhere), so that the whole community can meet to celebrate Sunday Mass together - which of course is not only a "noble aim" of Bishop Evans, but very much in line with the theology of the Sunday Mass. You state that you find the Diocesan policy "silly" and suggest, despite your statement in the entry for Harleston, that it merely is designed to address the decline in the number of priests in our growing Diocese. Such a suggestion is untrue - the desirabililty of gathering all of the Faithful together to celebrate one parish Sunday Mass arises much more fundamentally from the nature and function of the Sunday Mass. It is something to which we should be moving, even if the number of priests were to rise (as I am sure it will).
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