2019 AGM: reports


  • Parish priest’s report
  • PPC chair’s report
  • School report
  • Communications report
  • CAFOD report


Last month I celebrated the thirteenth anniversary of my arrival in the parish on a ten year assignment and I am now in my 79th year, so by Canon Law I am now on annual renewal by the Bishop of my appointment as your parish priest – as he is as our bishop.

The number of priests in the Community at Downside is critically low but I am hopeful, though not 100% confident, that a simple replacement will be found for me when I finally retire back to the abbey – which is likely to be in the course of 2020 or 21 though all has gone quiet on this subject in recent months. I am encouraged by the news that in East Anglia there have been 7 newly ordained priests in the past year and so, if necessary, we may be able to call on pastoral help from the diocese, especially since we (that is you) have contributed so much to the fund for training priests.

This year (2018/19) a recent record of eleven children were in preparation for their First Holy Communion which they received on 23rd June and I take this opportunity of expressing particular thanks to Rebecca Clarke for undertaking the instruction of this group each Tuesday afternoon. This year, all 11 were in our school which greatly simplified the logistics of this operation.

There were three adult candidates for reception into the Church of which one, Sue Allen, was ready to be Received and Confirmed at a public Mass on 14th June. Two older children were also Received by means of their First Holy Communion and three others Baptised prior to the event at a special ceremony with the entire school – thus making good use of our exceptionally large Baptistery. The total number of baptisms in the year was ten.

In this parish we normally have Confirmations for teenagers every three years, so we would expect to form a group for the autumn of 2020 or spring 2021.

There are two weddings this summer at St Edmund’s. One is of Rachael Weal a regular parishioner at Harleston.

During the last year we lost four parishioners through death of which one, Jo Botwright, was, I think, our oldest parishioner having spent her entire life in Hempnall following her birth there 90 years ago. A particular sadness was the death of Brenda Williams, Peter’s wife, and a great supporter and activist in our congregation at Harleston.

The census in September/October 2018 showed a decrease of eight in our average Sunday congregations (all Masses combined) to 121. A concern here is that while our candidature for Confirmations and First Holy Communions has been unexpectedly high in recent years, this does not appear to be reflected in the regular Sunday Mass count to an extent that one would have hoped would replace those who die or become housebound in a typical year. Commentators have suggested that national statistics in recent years have reflected the surge in immigration from Catholic countries in such places as Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth while rural parishes, such as ours, have not been benefiting from this trend. As I said last year: this is not a matter for particular alarm, but reflects the fact that we are the 7th smallest parish out of the 50 in our diocese and just one family moving in or out can make a noticeable difference.

Financially we continue on the usual knife-edge with income and expenditure finely balanced through the use of a carefully watched budget – for which prudence I am as always particularly grateful to our Treasurer, Carole Hunt. A number of building renovations have taken place at Bungay, such as installation of 20 Solar PV Cells, and at Harleston, arrangements are being made for repairs to a persistent leak in the sanctuary area.

In the course of the year, the fundraising scheme for the Diocese, called Alive in Faith, has quietly fulfilled the second of its five years of pledges. The Solar Panels were officially launched on 3 May at a school assembly. Our appeal was 360% over target and had one of the highest participation rates at 55%. Our Parish Pastoral Council has been discussing projects which might be an appropriate and beneficial use of our share of the cash-back windfall as it trickles through over the years.

As always, I think we should renew our gratitude to those who give generously of their time in carrying out the essential offices both in Bungay and Harleston. It is always dangerous to thank by name for fear of missing someone out, but you all know who they are, whether on the Parish Council, the Finance Committee, The Pastoral Support Network, the Choir and instrumentalists, the managements of our two halls, of the chapel at Harleston, the rotas for Eucharistic ministry, Children’s Liturgy, reading, serving, welcoming, flower arranging, altar preparation, linen-washing, coffee-making, cash-counting, red-boxing, maintenance, gardening, management of the website or liaison with our chosen charities.

I am grateful to Andy Parris for his work as Communications Officer in spite of renewed health problems; unlike many parishes, our parish website is routinely up-dated each weekend with the Newsletter and other items of interest.  Thanks also to those who have set-up a fundraising CAFOD stall at Fressingfield which raises cash for the Third World. I am especially grateful to Shirley Kalinauckas, our Chair of PPC, who took over from Helen Kirby in September 2018 and to the other new members of the PPC.

In addition to CAFOD and its overseas aid, we are now in our eighth year of actively supporting a home charity, the Waveney Foodbank, which helps those in need of emergency assistance in the area. This scheme continues to attract a great deal of interest nationally, to the embarrassment of the government (who should themselves be providing a safety net).

Our Chapel at St Thomas More, Harleston, continues as a fairly distinct geographical congregation with a strong sense of community. Owing to the regular hiring-out of its premises, it is largely self-supporting but the wear and tear on the premises from youth groups can be quite heavy. A huge thanks to Peter Williams who has been looking after it for many more years than I have been here.

Our Primary School (St Edmund’s) is now federated, along with St Benet’s Beccles, as part of the Catholic Multi-Academy Trust of St John the Baptist which runs all eight Catholic schools in Norfolk and North Suffolk under the leadership of Notre Dame High School, Norwich. Our Headteacher, Sam Barlow, has been extraordinarily active and has brought the school up, not only to the Ofsted rank of “good” but also recruited a full entry cohort for this September (2019).

Last year’s Parish Outing to Hoxne was a great success. This year we plan to go to Thetford Priory on 22 July.

At Downside Abbey, our sponsor and trustee, Prior Administrator Dom Nicholas Wetz began his two years of administration which is now nearly half completed.

Locally, our Dean, Fr Roger Spencer is about to retire this September and I am grateful for all the support and advice he has given to me personally over the years. He is rumoured to be planning to live in Beccles (which could be useful) but no successor at Southwold has yet been announced.

So, as always, I would like to express my thanks to you all for being the sort of parish you are, one that I will be very sad to leave when the time comes. May God bless and keep our parish in his love for many decades to come.

Father Charles      6.7.19


The PPC has met four times since the last AGM, with a particular focus on how we can increase participation in parish life, particularly the participation of young people.  This is an ongoing concern of the PPC.

One innovation this year has been that PPC minutes are now available for all to access, via an information folder available at the back of the church/chapel.  Parishioners are encouraged to read the minutes of our PPC meetings and to contact any member of the PPC if they would like to contribute in any way to the discussions.

As will be seen in other reports, there have been changes within the parish communications team since the last AGM and the PPC will be looking into the implications of these as a matter of urgency.

Also as covered in Fr Charles’ and the CAFOD/Laudato si’ report, the parish has had 20 solar panels installed on the hall roof and this together with other parish activities means we have been advised we should apply for CAFOD’s Live Simply award for the parish.

The parish has been represented at two Council of Laity meetings since the last AGM.  These meetings always focus on a recent papal document, the last one being Christus Vivit.  We might consider how these documents can be disseminated more widely within the parish.

The parish was also represented, by our catechist Becky, a young person (Ben) and myself at the Youth Synod held in Mildenhall last November.  This was a synod at diocesan level following on from the Youth Synod held earlier in Rome.

In Advent we held a festival with the theme of candlelight on the day of the Bungay street market and this drew many positive comments from the public and led to PPC discussion of how we could make the church more welcoming and accessible to those who are not regular attenders.  At Easter Stations of the Cross were arranged for us by Sonia Montagu, so thanks to her for that.

There have been a number of successful occasions combining the social with the liturgical this year, notably the parish outing to Hoxne church last July and a St Edmund’s day Mass and lunch which was very successfully organised for us by Sonia Montagu and Helen Kirby.  More recently there was a house Mass kindly hosted for us by Andrew and Cathy Scott which combined a Mass with the theme of ‘Care for our Common Home’ with a very pleasant social occasion.

Sorry to end on  a more negative note but the parish has perhaps been a little less successful socially this year:  The St Patrick’s night celebration had to be cancelled due to low ticket sales and last week the annual parish barbecue at Jay’s Green, to which all parishioners were invited, was very pleasant but very poorly attended.  Thanks to Christine and Tom Lindsay and Peter Williams for helping to organise this but the poor attendance brings us back to the question of how to increase participation in the life of the parish.

Shirley Kalinauckas


The Catholic Schools of the Waveney Valley

School Officer Report:  July 2019 AGM


We have 14 children starting in September, the highest intake in recent years which we are really pleased about. We are getting more and more enquiries about our school for in year movement from other schools.

Collective Worship

Ash Wednesday Mass – was well attended by parents
Reconciliation Service for KS2 children March 2019
Mary Procession and crowning May 2019
Ascension Day Mass – June 2019

  • Class assemblies took place Spring Term for parents, children planned and led these with an RE theme.
  • Prayer Station Day – children designed and set up prayer stations in the hall during Lent – the whole school visited and interacted with them as well as parents.
  • Baptism – three children in KS2 who are making their FHC were baptised in church and the whole school attended. This took place in the Baptistery and was a lovely occasion.
  • Ignite – Year 3 visited Walsingham with other MAT schools and the Mass was led by Ignite
  • Year 4 visited St Francis School in Norwich together with other MAT schools for a retreat day around Pentecost.
  • 1 July – Mass for St Peter and St Paul whole school and parents

We will continue to build on the collective worship opportunities undertaken this year into next academic year and are also beginning to embark on Faith in Action for our year 6 children which we hope they will continue into their high school years.

Faith in Action – The Faith in Action Award encourages young people through recognising, rewarding and celebrating their active faith lived out through service and reflection. The Award helps them connect their life and faith in a tangible manner.

In journeying through the Award, young people should experience a deepening of their relationship with God and find themselves exploring that relationship. It is hoped that through their relationship and action, others will see God’s love through them.


Mini Vinnies group continue to meet and are working on a project to develop the outdoor prayer space which will include outdoor seating, prayer trails and using it for RE lessons.

Next year they will also plan and lead key liturgical events for the whole school such as Harvest celebration, advent etc.

Class 3 children are visiting Chevington Lodge Care Home weekly on a Friday as part of the charitable work with Friend in Deed who are an intergenerational charity working to support the elderly with Dementia. Please see our website for photos of the children’s visits.

First Holy Communion Group – we had a good number this year of 11 children making their FHC and some of which decided to join the faith as part of their commitment. We undertook classes in school which made this very central and meaningful to the other children in our school. We hope to deliver this the same way next year.

Religious Education

Staff have been trained on using more spiritual driver words in their marking to allow children to make a much deeper response to feedback. The words in bold are driver words. We use Big Books for our whole class collective worship that begin with a ‘big’ question for the children to discuss and respond to.

See example:

You retold the story of the Last Supper very well Laura.
Can you describe how the disciples felt?
Next time try and make a link to what Fr. John says in Church during Mass, to the Last Supper.
Use a different coloured pen to ask a question which requires a response…
Give me a reason why you choose those words?

We are also working on other strategies for ensuring deeper learning:

  • Teaching enthuses pupils
  • Rapid progress is taking place
  • Teaching communicates high expectations
  • Teachers show a high level of confidence and subject knowledge
  • Teachers carefully observe and skilfully question ensuring excellent learning is taking place
  • Teachers plan for focused learning and include challenge, based on previous assessment – using Driver Words
  • Fine-tuned differentiation ensures the needs of all pupils are addressed
  • Marking and constructive feedback are frequent and of consistently high quality
  • Pupils understand what they need to do to improve their work and are given an opportunity to do so
  • Pupils engage in self –evaluating their work giving them confidence in their ability and how well they achieve.

RE Assessment

We are using these Diocesan ‘I can Statements’ for assessment tasks and these are done at the end of a topic/unit of work. The children have an assessment book which they collate their evidence in and this moves with them through the school, this is also serves as a learning journey for them from Reception to Year 6 that they can take home when they leave school. The children are encouraged to self-assess and peer asses with these to reflect on where they are in their learning.

See example:

– You retold the story of the Last Supper very well Laura.
– Can you describe how the disciples felt?
– Next time try and make a link to what Fr. John says in Church during Mass, to the Last Supper.
– Use a different coloured pen to ask a question which requires a response…
– Give me a reason why you choose those words?

RE Inspection

We are still awaiting an RE Section 48 inspection. In preparation we are ensuring we collect all evidence of collective worship, RE assessments, RE exemplars for expected and greater depth outcomes and examples of chaplaincy and Catholic life of the school.

Professional development for staff will come in the form of induction for new staff especially non-Catholics, how to effectively us a prayer space indoors and outdoors, creating a deeper understanding of the ‘ Bigger Picture’ of the liturgical year – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, using reflection points in our work to allow children to not only retell but to respond to God’s word in their lives and finally monitoring with the RE governor to ensure standards remain high in the school.

Sam Barlow


There have been significant changes to the communications team and the way it works since the last AGM. Helen Kirby left in July when she also stepped down as chair of the PPC. Helen was replaced by Shirley Kalinauckas as chair of the PPC and in that role she joined the communications team. Shirley has no experience in the practicalities of managing a website but has provided ideas and views about changes to the site. Mary Kirk stepped down from the team in September.

These changes and the impact of the general data protection regulation (GDPR) have had an inevitable effect. These include:

  • the site is static – there are no opportunities for visitors to respond to or post comments about anything they read
  • there is no longer an A – Z of parish activities or personnel
  • fewer posts are written for the sidebar – these had often been a reiteration of information in the newsletter which is still the first item at the top of the sidebar
  • my aim is to post the newsletter before the Saturday 6.30pm Mass – I meet it 95% of the time
  • the list of readers and Eucharistic Minsters for Jay’s Green has been removed (This had never been uploaded for Bungay.)

Despite these changes, the number of people accessing the site is still around 500 per month. The majority are from the UK but the number always includes people from the USA, France, Ireland, India, Australia, the Philippines and Poland. The most popular pages are the home page, the calendar and Father Charles’ reflections drawn from his homilies.

After a bit of negotiation over copyright, the full readings for each Sunday’s Mass are available from a sidebar link. This lets you see the readings from the Wednesday before the Mass until the Wednesday afterwards. (Any discrepancies are down to the website manager, rather than the text providers.)

This year I have sent two articles to the diocesan communications officer which were printed in the diocesan newspaper and put on its website.

I don’t write articles for the website: I edit and manage it. If you think something should be included, please write a brief description or article and I’ll put it up (assuming it is appropriate!) Photos will always add further insights and interest into what you are writing about. If you have ideas for regular articles or blogs you would like to contribute, please contact me so we can discuss how that can be arranged.

Andy Parris

  • Andy Parris has stepped down, and has been replaced by Mary Kirk from 1 August 2019

CAFOD REPORT  please click on the link.