• Statement from Bishop Peter Collins to the parishes of Bungay and Beccles

The White House
21 Upgate
NR14 7SH

Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia

The Right Reverend Peter G. Collins, KC*HS, STL Bishop of East Anglia



01508 492202
01508 495358bishop@rcdea.org.uk

January 12th, 2024


As many parishioners are aware, Fr Michael Brookes – parish priest of Bungay and priest with pastoral oversight for Beccles – has been experiencing the effects of significant stress over recent months, not least as a result of his concern regarding the health of his elderly mother. Since the summer of 2023, I have had a sequence of meetings and conversations with Fr Michael regarding his health and ministry.

You will all be aware that the diocese and the Downside community have been engaged in discussions over recent years concerning the status and operation of the parishes of Bungay and Beccles. I am sure you were delighted to hear the news that these discussions reached a fruitful conclusion on the 31st of December 2023 when the signed formal contract brought both parishes under the full canonical control of the diocese. Although this process has been conducted on a diocesan level, the situation inevitably created uncertainty and tension on a parish level. There have been times when this tension has impacted on Fr Michael.

At Christmas there was an incident which has led me to relieve Fr Michael of his pastoral responsibilities. I have instructed Fr Michael to engage with an assessment process that will help address a sequence of issues relating to his health and wellbeing as well as his ministerial practice. With the assistance of my diocesan safeguarding coordinator and others, I will ensure that Fr Michael receives the support and direction he requires. I ask you all to pray for Fr Michael and to pray for one another within both parish communities.

I am grateful to the Vicar General, Canon David Bagstaff, for his part in ensuring pastoral provision. I also wish to express my gratitude to Canon David Paul and to Fr Stephen Bould for their great contribution in service to both parishes over the past year and within the current context. I also thank Fr Dick White for his generous assistance at this time.

I am duty bound to tell you how difficult it will be to provide priestly cover over the coming weeks and months for there is no spare capacity within the diocese. There is no priest available to take up residence at this time. Many will be tempted to speculate regarding the future, but I must emphasise how unhelpful that would be. I am about to launch a consultation process across the diocese regarding the future of our pastoral provision for we face a significant diminution in the number of active priests over the coming months and years.

Be assured that I will do everything possible to ensure both parishes are cared for in the best manner possible. I call upon every parishioner to continue contributing to the ongoing life and ministry of both parishes at this challenging time. There is much to do but we are capable of assuming responsibility for the mission that is entrusted to all the baptised. With my blessing and the assurance of my prayers.

My best wishes,

The Right Reverend Peter G. Collins, KC*HS, STL

Bishop of East Anglia

Registered Charity No. 278742

Any concerns or questions on this matter should be addressed to the Diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator, Mr Mick Thurley